Fairfield University’s Best Buddies program will host its first-ever Friendship Walk on campus at Lessing Track on Sunday, April 28.

Best Buddies is a global nonprofit organization “dedicated to creating opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, inclusive living and family support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).”

(Photo courtesy of Liv Jacoma ’24)

The walk is the final campus event of a program that has seen a tremendous expansion of in-person events on campus this year. Many students have doubtlessly seen Stags and their Buddies spending time together during the week or cheering on Fairfield’s athletic teams at the Leo D. Mahoney Arena throughout the semester.

Although the Conn. Best Buddies Friendship Walk has been held in Hartford since its inception, attendance by Fairfield County’s 1,400 members has historically been quite low due to transportation difficulties for chapters in the area. The solution? To hold a more accessible walk for these young people and get as many Stags involved as possible in the process.

I don’t think many students realize that the Buddies at Fairfield University really feel like part of our community through the program. Lots of our Buddies are season-ticket holders to the athletic games and really love being a part of our school and developing friendships with peers their own age.

President of Fairfield University Best Buddies, Caroline Sweeny ‘24

President Caroline Sweeny ‘24, who became involved with Best Buddies during her first year at Fairfield, before becoming a board member during her sophomore year, spoke about the recent growth of the program.

“Best Buddies has had a chapter at Fairfield for the past 32 years, but we’ve really stepped our game over the past year,” she said. “Last year we started a partnership with Woofgang & Co. in town, which has really opened up some great opportunities and helped us increase the number of Buddies in our chapter.”

At its core, Best Buddies strives to provide meaningful social connections to disabled adults that other transition programs do not offer. The resources that it provides help to combat the profound social isolation that impacts many people with special needs during adulthood.

“I don’t think many students realize that the Buddies at Fairfield University really feel like part of our community through the program,” said Sweeny. “Lots of our Buddies are season-ticket holders to the athletic games and really love being a part of our school and developing friendships with peers their own age.”

The chapter’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by the Fairfield University community. COSO recently selected Fairfield Best Buddies as the winner of its Philanthropy Award for its efforts to spread inclusion and friendship on campus.

(Graphic courtesy of Caroline Sweeny ’24)

“None of this would have been possible without the complete and total commitment of the executive board,” said Sweeny. “This club is so impactful to so many people, it’s great to see it get this recognition.”

According to Caroline, 200 people have already signed up for the friendship walk, with an estimated 250 people from around Connecticut expected to attend. She recently appeared on Connecticut News 8 with her Buddy, Daniel Hannon, along with fellow senior Christine Anthony and her brother Bobby, a member of Quinnipiac University’s Best Buddies chapter, to promote the walk.

“When we get really excited about our work, when we get really passionate about it as leaders– that is what inspires people to follow through,” said Sweeny. “I think that’s been the secret of our success this year.”

The walk will take place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on April 28, with registration opening at 1 p.m. and the walk itself beginning at 2 p.m. Those looking to participate as part of the walk team can sign up here, or create their own walk team here.

Students interested in donating or finding more information about the Fairfield chapter can find the Stags and their Buddies on their Instagram, @bestbuddiesfairfieldu.

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