Cornell students and buddies spend time together at the club's Friendship Stroll event on Sunday.

Courtesy of Emma Seymour '18

Cornell students and buddies spend time together at the club's Friendship Stroll event on Sunday.

April 30, 2018

Student Group Connects Cornellians to Community Members with Disabilities to Promote Social Inclusion

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The Cornell chapter of Best Buddies has raised over $2,000 through their fundraising efforts in the last two months to help expand the club’s future social events.

Best Buddies is a “nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global movement that creates opportunities for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities,” according to the organization’s Facebook page.

The Cornell chapter of the non-profit promotes social inclusion by pairing Cornell students with people with disabilities in the Ithaca Community, according to Sarah Aiken ’18, the club’s outgoing president.

This past Sunday, the group hosted the Best Buddies Friendship Stroll fundraiser in the Cornell Botanical Gardens.

The Friendship Walk is a national movement intended to “raise awareness for inclusion, friendship, leadership development, and integrated job opportunities for people with IDD (intellectual and developmental disabilities),” according to the event’s official page.

Best Buddies at Cornell has attended the walk in Albany and Rochester over the past two years. This year, it had the opportunity to host its own friendship stroll for the western New York region.

In preparation for the walk during the past two months, Aiken said that club members participated in a number of fundraising initiatives, including a social media campaign that featured photos and stories of buddy pairs to raise awareness for their cause, in addition to a fundraiser that involved selling wristbands for drink specials at Loco. Individual members also had their own fundraising pages that friends and families could help contribute to.

The club was first founded in the fall of 2014 without much funding, so Cornell students and their buddies could only do coloring and other limited activities in the basement of Annabel Taylor Hall, Aiken explained.

This motivated the student group to plan fundraisers to support meaningful bonding events, according to Aiken.

In addition to the inclusive walk drawing all community members, Sunday’s event also featured people sharing what Best Buddies meant to them and honored those who fundraised the most money.

Lizabeth Kaminoff ’20, a member of Cornell Best Buddies, said she joined the fundraiser because she had “always been interested in breaking down the barrier between people with disabilities and those without.”

“From the fundraiser, I learned that if you ask people for help with something you are passionate about, they are willingly to give. I’m clearly passionate about Best Buddies and my peers definitely picked up on that,” she said.

Events like the fundraiser are essential because they not only highlight the importance of social inclusion to the Ithaca and Cornell community members, but also show participants with disabilities that they deserve to be included, according to Aiken.

The club members raised in total around $2,000 dollars, all of which will go into planning for community outings and future events, Aiken reported.

She shared that some group trips that Cornell students and their buddies had been to in the past include the farmers’ market, bowling and sporting events.

Aiken, who will graduate soon, has worked with the club for all of her four years at Cornell. Looking back, she said she believes there is huge value in the work that Best Buddies does and that both buddies with disabilities and Cornell students benefit from participating in the program.

“A lot of buddies face social exclusion … it just gives them a friend which sounds like a trivial thing but has a much bigger impact than people realize,” Aiken said.