BYU’s Best Buddies program builds lifelong friendships

Best Buddies
Matthew Wilkinson (right) and his buddy Devin Dawson enjoy a Best Buddies activity. (Best Buddies)

BYU’s Best Buddies program gives students an opportunity to serve through befriending and helping those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Best Buddies is the largest program of its kind in the nation, with over 270 members, according to the group’s president, Matt Wilkinson. The group is passionate about what they do.

“We want people on campus to understand what the program is about,” Wilkinson said. “A lot of people don’t know what it’s about.”

Wilkinson said the group pairs students and those with disabilities, which leads to powerful friendships. He said the bonds forged in the program last more than just the four years a student is at BYU — many of them last forever.

Best Buddies Vice President Allie Elison said group members aren’t simply giving service — the time they spend with their buddies lets them develop true friendships.

“We talk with our buddies every week, we go to parties together, we eat food together, we dance together — all that interaction leads to something very real,” Elison said.

Dani Jardine
Allyse Shumway (right) and her buddy, Reed Hahne, laugh together. (Dani Jardine)

Devin Dawson is one of the buddies with disabilities who has been paired up with BYU students over the years. He’s been a member of the group for over 10 years and has had many buddies, but he still remembers one of his oldest buddies, Kai Lawrence.

“It’s been 10 years since he was paired with Kai, and he still talks about him all the time,” said Wilkinson, who is now one of Dawson’s buddies. “Friendships like these that last 10 years after moving away are incredibly hard to come across, but it’s something you see when you serve on Best Buddies.”

Best Buddies activities chair Allyse Shumway said many of her friends ask her how she has time for school, work and Best Buddies. She said the feeling she gets while serving others and the joy she experiences makes her feel so good that Best Buddies doesn’t add any stress at all; it actually relieves it.

Shumway invited everyone looking to feel the same joy as her to participate in the group’s events.

“You don’t have to be in the program to come and have a good time,” Shumway said. “We do all kinds of activities for all kinds of people, and everyone is welcome to come whether they’re enrolled in the program or not.”

While the group is large, it is always looking for more members.

More information about the Best Buddies program can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and on the group’s website. Students interested in participating can also stop by the Y-Serve office with questions.

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