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, MLA St. James
May 9, 2013

Best Buddies

Mr. Speaker, all people deserve the chance to feel respected, appreciated and that they have a place in the community. Today, I rise to commend a group that does really great work to ensure that this happens.

Best Buddies is an organization that helps both students and adults with intellectual disabilities forge meaningful friendships with their peers in the community.

The program runs as a club in middle and high schools, with the help of teacher advisors. Students with intellectual disabilities are matched with a peer based on their interests and they get together regularly to see movies, go bowling, attend cultural and sporting events, play video games or just hang out. They also hold group events and fundraisers. Universities run Best Buddies chapters, as well, where student volunteers are matched with adults with intellectual disabilities.

This March, I spoke at Chapters' annual Read All About It event, which highlighted the Best Buddies program. There, I was able to meet some of the dedicated staff, teachers and student volunteers involved with Best Buddies in Manitoba, as well as the families who have loved ones in the program, and heard more about the great experiences that participants and volunteers have had through their involvement.

Best Buddies promotes inclusion and helps to break down barriers that prevent young people with intellectual disabilities from experiencing some of the social opportunities that many others have. Some of these students go on to join school clubs and organizations that they likely would not have felt was an option for them to join, until they developed a friendship through the Best Buddies program. This program takes possible preconceptions, on both sides, and creates a whole new view of what each of us has to offer.

Mr. Speaker, friendship is important to all of us, old and young alike. Everyone should have the opportunity to feel accepted, to participate in their community and to enjoy some of the everyday experiences most of us take for granted, like grabbing a coffee with a friend or attending a movie with someone outside of their immediate circle of family.

I would like to acknowledge and thank all of the individuals and schools involved in making a difference through this superb program. Thank you very much.