Everyone was a winner at SMU Best Buddies’ Valentine’s Day bingo on Thursday, Feb. 7, in Hughes-Trigg Student Center.
Buddies conversed with SMU students while playing spirited rounds of bingo with M&M’s as playing chips. Both buddies and students smiled as they interacted with old friends and peer mentors.
SMU Best Buddies President Tyler Gralapp explained that involvement by SMU students is critical to the buddies because they “just want to be included.”
“Our job is to facilitate friendships,” Gralapp said. “It’s our first event since break, so getting back together, playing some bingo, and rekindling after winter break is the expectation for tonight. We have these events that way if our students can’t travel, they can still meet their requirements of being a peer mentor.”
Best Buddies promotes inclusion and friendships with individuals facing intellectual and developmental disabilities. Most of the buddies are adults much older than college-aged students.
At the beginning of bingo, Gralapp addressed the importance of the program, student involvement, and the personal impact Best Buddies has had on his life.
“It’s a really unique experience because I don’t think there is another organization where you can get that exposure to not only a community of different individuals but a community much older than your own,” Gralapp said.
Best Buddies Public Relations Executive Alexandria Haggar shares Gralapp’s passion.
“It’s really important,” Haggar said of the program that fosters such life-changing friendships. “It shows how students can be more involved in the school. It brings everyone together and is such a fun time.”
The ultimate goal of Best Buddies is to become an organization that is no longer needed. Best Buddies hopes that buddies will one day be completely integrated into society, accepted and recognized for their abilities.
Student Buddy Jeremy Criswell has enjoyed his participation in the club for several years.
“You get to build friendships and hang out with amazing people,” Criswell said. “Best buddies is a great way to build friendships with special needs people.”
SMU students can support Best buddies at their next fundraising event from 5-9 p.m. on March 26 at Chipotle.