Miami’s Best Buddies chapter internationally recognized

The national Best Buddies program matches students with people who have developmental disabilities to make new friends.

Miami’s chapter of Best Buddies recently won the Overall Outstanding Chapter of the Year Award from the Best Buddies international organization, out of 425 chapters around the world.

The chapter held its annual kickoff Thursday night as several dozen people gathered behind the Shriver Center playing games and catching up. Some students reunited with their buddies while others came to sign up for the first time.

“Last year, we had 70 matches. We get together and do a monthly social event, and then once a month, the matches go out and do a one-on-one activity together,” said Connie Mehlman, Miami’s Best Buddies chapter coordinator.

It’s similar to Big Brothers Big Sisters, but “We don’t consider it a mentoring program. We feel that both people have an equal amount of things to bring to the table. The college kids who are in this program get no community service hours, no volunteer hours — they’re in the social group because they want to make a friend,” Mehlman said.

Cory Pisano, a senior from Sandusky, has been a member of the Buddies for three years, joining at the suggestion of a roommate, Daniel Perrson, who is now the student president of the Miami Buddies chapter. His buddy is Michael Vaught of Oxford. They go bowling and to restaurants together, among other things.

“ We got to know each other. There were the same things we liked and disliked… It’s pretty exciting,” Vaught said.

Persson, a senior who is from Youngstown, joined the Buddies “randomly. I didn’t really know what they were about. I went to the first event, and it was really, really cool. I was hooked ever since. It’s just a great atmosphere. Everyone’s really happy and really open to you.”

Madison Kraska of Springboro is new this year not only to the Buddies but to Miami as a freshman this year. She signed up for the program on Thursday.

“During high school, I did a lot of programs like this, and I wanted to keep it up through college. I was a teen mentor and I aided with special needs at my high school. I think it’s very rewarding,” she said.

Sidney Bell of Cleveland is in her second year with the Buddies. When she joined last year, “It sounded so fun … everyone’s super positive. People make good out of anything you can think of. I love everyone that does it,” she said.

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