Best Buddies builds relationships

Vanessa Saltijeral, Contributing Writer

For students in Eastern’s chapter of Best Buddies, the group is more than a registered student organization.

Amber Salutric, a sophomore foreign languages and communication disorders and sciences major, was able to forge a close friendship through her time at the organization.

With programs in over 50 countries and 100 school chapters in Illinois, Best Buddies focuses on fostering friendships between students and local citizens who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

When building these friendships, college students take their buddies out and spend time with them.

Salutric has been involved with Eastern’s Best Buddies program for two years and also participated for two years in high school.

Salutric, now president of Best Buddies, knew that when she was picking colleges, the school had to have a Best Buddies program.

After also being president of her high school’s program, Salutric said it was her dream to be in it again during college.

Eastern’s Best Buddies program has 104 members, including both students and buddies, with numbers doubling from last year.

Brandy Colbert, an adult with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has been a member of Eastern’s Best Buddies chapter for eight years.

Colbert has been Salutric’s buddy for two years.

When they decide to spend time together, Salutric and Colbert like to talk about boys, go shopping, eat and go to the movies.

“I enjoy having a best buddy that has time to take me somewhere and meet with me,” Colbert said.

Salutric said one of the best memories she has with Colbert is when they spent a full day shopping.

Both Salutric and Colbert said they have become almost like sisters through the program.

They celebrate holidays and birthdays together and even sometimes just hang out to take a nap.

Salutric said she has really grown to have a passion for the program, and she believes other members who join do, too.

She said that members come out of the program without even realizing how different their lives are and how much they have learned just from knowing one person in Best Buddies.

Colbert said Best Buddies and the experience it gives her means a lot. Without Best Buddies, Colbert said she would not know what would have happened to her.

“(The program) means everything to (the buddies),” Salutric said. “They don’t really get to get out of the house much, so just getting out of the house and taking them somewhere and making true friends means a lot.”

Eastern’s Best Buddies chapter meets the first Monday of the month at 5:30 p.m. in the Arcola/Tuscola room of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

Vanessa Saltijeral can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].