The Catholic University of America

Sept. 8, 2010

CUA’s Best Buddies Chapter Wins International Award

  From left to right, Anthony Kennedy Shriver, founder and chairman, Best Buddies International; Rachel Lipke, buddy ambassador from Illinois; Erin Flynn, president of CUA’s Best Buddies chapter; and Manuela Londono, student representative on the Best Buddies International Board of Directors.

The CUA Chapter of Best Buddies recently was honored by the international parent organization with its Outstanding Chapter Award.

The CUA chapter, which pairs a student with a mentally disabled person, was feted at the 21st Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference held earlier this summer at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.

“I was both shocked and excited,” Erin Flynn, president of the CUA chapter, wrote of receiving the wooden plaque in Indiana. “We were able to turn the organization around and really bring back the mission of Best Buddies. I was excited to be able to bring back the award and inspire not only our current members, but also new members that we could recruit.”

In March, the CUA chapter was given the Most Improved Chapter Award by Best Buddies of Maryland.

Flynn, a junior from Long Island, N.Y., majoring in theology and religious studies, said the key to the chapter’s success has been communication. “You need to be able to talk to the buddies, the college students, our adviser, and our program manager,” she wrote. “It is only when everyone is communicating and working together that our organization can thrive.”

Every Wednesday evening CUA’s Best Buddies attend Mass and share a dinner with buddies from Bethlehem House, a home in Brookland for mentally disabled adults.

Flynn, whose mother’s godson is autistic, said she believes that the CUA chapter won the award partly because of the Mass-and-supper event. Already, the chapter asks its members to meet with their “buddies” at least twice a month and to talk with them once a week by phone. “We were going above and beyond what other organizations do,” Flynn said.

The CUA chapter has come a long way. As recently as the summer of 2009, its meetings were lightly attended. Emmjolee Mendoza Waters, associate campus minister for community services and adviser for Best Buddies, contemplated advising the group to “take a year off” to reorganize. But with the leadership of Flynn and others, the chapter excelled. “They worked really hard — so I am not surprised,” Mendoza Waters said. “I thought they were deserving of their award.”

The CUA chapter is not through, Flynn said. This year it plans to host a potluck dinner for Thanksgiving and a friendship dinner. Also, it continues to work on the campaign for “Spread the Word to End the Word,” a national movement to encourage people to not use the word “retarded.”

Some members also plan to participate in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Challenge, a multi-sport event that raises money for Best Buddies and the Special Olympics, in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 23. In May, CUA hosted the 2010 Special Olympics District of Columbia Summer Games for the 10th consecutive year.

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