Best Buddies creates lifelong friendships between members and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Micah Nehring came to Texas Tech University in fall 2014. Being in an unfamiliar city six hours away from home, she found herself wanting to join a student organization to meet new people. A friend told Nehring about an international organization called Best Buddies that brings together students and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
While searching through campus student organizations, Nehring stumbled upon the Texas Tech chapter. She decided to join the small organization that had only a few active members. Three years later, Nehring still works hard for the organization as their vice president and has helped it grow to what it is today.
From Best Buddies to best friends
In 2015, Nehring was partnered with Hunter DeLuna. He is 22 years old and lives with his family in Lubbock. He was born with Schizencephaly, a birth defect that causes abnormalities, such as clefts or slits, in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain. When they first met, DeLuna hardly spoke to anyone. Nehring was persistent, however, and finally sparked a conversation with him. Three years later, the duo hang out, help each other and continue to truly be best buddies.
Nehring and DeLuna love to hang out at Best Buddies events like bowling, but they spend time together outside of the organization as well. They enjoy getting coffee together, playing Xbox games and going out to eat. For their annual Halloween party at the At'l Do Farms Corn Maize, the duo dressed up as fictional characters “Rick and Morty.” Nehring and her friends even have become well acquainted with the DeLuna family
“Hunter is probably one of my best friends. He's like a ray of sunshine when my day has been bad,” Nehring said. “He'll just text me, ‘Hey, I hope your day is going well,' or ‘How's school?' If I'm stressed out he'll say ‘You've got it, no worries.' I think that's one of the best things I've gotten out of joining Best Buddies.”
Their friendship goes far beyond hanging out and texting each other. Nehring and DeLuna also have helped each other grow. Through their time with Best Buddies, DeLuna has become more social. Now, he enjoys spending time in groups with Nehring and other friends they've made over the years.
“When I started, I was shy and embarrassed. She was the first person I talked to,” DeLuna said. “It's helped me be more comfortable around other people. I didn't have that many friends. She became my first best friend.”
No longer the shy individual from three years ago, now, DeLuna will even take the stage with his best buddy to sing karaoke at bowling nights.
“Just the change from when I met him to now is incredible,” Nehring said. “This past semester, when we did our meet and greet, we didn't have as many buddies show up as we were hoping. I asked him if he could sit with this big group of people and talk to them, and he had no problem whatsoever. He talked to them for an hour.”
Through Best Buddies, Nehring and DeLuna have become great friends who support and help each other. The duo hopes Best Buddies will continue to harbor similar relationships between students and members of the IDD community in Lubbock.
Getting involved with Best Buddies
Best Buddies is an international organization that helps promote the inclusion and socialization of IDD individuals. Various chapters of the organization focus on different support areas, including one-to-one friendships, promoting leadership skills and encouraging integrated employment. The Texas Tech chapter focuses on friendships.
Students can choose between two types of memberships in the organization. Peer members are students who wish to be paired with a buddy and build a friendship. Buddies are selected from various IDD organizations around Lubbock, such as High Point Village. Students and buddies are paired based on their personalities.
Associate members volunteer through Best Buddies at churches and IDD organizations in Lubbock. These members also set up and attend events where they can mingle with buddies.
Best Buddies hosts several events for their members and buddies. Every month, the organization selects a Tuesday and Saturday to host a fun group event, like bowling at Main Event. At the end of each semester, the organization hosts a party to send everyone to their breaks on a good note.
The organization also hosts several fundraising and awareness events throughout the year. Their annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday (Feb. 23) at Bacon Heights Baptist Church. For Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March, Best Buddies will participate in the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. In April, they will host their annual Friendship Walk fundraiser.
Students interested in joining or learning more about the organization can contact Kia Barton, president of Best Buddies at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nehring at email@example.com. The organization also accepts application through its OrgSync page. To learn more about Best Buddies, visit its Facebook page.