Buddy Games Change Lives

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Best Buddies, an international non-profit organization that pairs people with and without disabilities, hosted its 2nd annual Buddy Games with collaboration from Tri Gamma Nursing Sorority and USF athletes March 26.

At the beginning of the games, buddies, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs), were placed in different groups consisting of at least 3 other buddies and about 10 others without IDDs. The teams participated in different games such as soccer, basketball, dribbling relays, and volleyball.

Krisna Tahija, USF president of Best Buddies, said the organization participated in hosting the games to encourage healthy eating habits among their members and promote the inclusion of people with IDDs.

“Many times, people with IDDs are overlooked by “normal” people because they are considered “different,” Tahija said, “But, when you get the chance to interact with people with IDDs, you discover that they are in no way different from us. They are human beings just like us, capable of feeling, working, and living like any one of us, in spite of their disabilities.”

Through the Buddy Games, playing becomes much more than a game.
“As they partake in exercises with their teammates, Buddies get to experience being a part of a group of people that accepts them just as they are and treats them no differently from people without IDDs,” said Tahija.

Clayton Bartholoma, one of the buddies who participated in the event, said he had a fun time. “All of the USF students were very nice to me and my favorite part was basketball and volleyball,” he said.

USF’s Best Buddies chapter works with The Arc San Francisco, a non-profit service and advocacy organization that assists adults in San Francisco and San Mateo counties with intellectual and developmental disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy.

Valeria Garcia, Treasurer of Best Buddies, said USF students assist The Arc members find jobs and participate in computer and hip hop classes. Because USF is a college chapter, it is open to people 18 and over but Best Buddies also has younger members.

“They have middle school chapters and high school chapters as well. They pair them up in accordance to their age with other schools,” Garcia said.

After the games, members of Tri Gamma Nursing Sorority presented a PowerPoint that supported eating well and living healthy. The PowerPoint included tips on healthy foods to eat, daily exercises and not smoking. According to the presentation, people with disabilities are more prone to develop diabetes and health diseases and due to intellectual and cognitive impairments, have a more difficult time understanding the need for improvements.

According to Health.com, people with Down syndrome are more likely to have birth defects which may lead in developing certain diseases such as Thyroid disease and heart disease. Thyroid disease occurs in about 5 out of 100 people with Down syndrome.

Mairin McCracken, a volunteer at the event and Service and Philanthropy Director of Kappa Alpha, said she loved being a part of the Buddy Games. “Best Buddies did an amazing job with making sure the event was centered around the Buddies, and it was also really great to see so many athletes from our campus involved in the event and making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities,” she said.
To students who did not attend the event, Tahija said, “We, as officers, also had a lot of fun partaking in events and also watching people do various exercises in different sport stations. I definitely recommend for people that haven’t had the chance to partake in Best Buddy Games to check it out, because it will definitely be an eye-opening experience.”

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