Best Buddies: NKU helps organizations promote inclusiveness

“This show is all about inclusiveness. It gives those with disabilities a chance to have fun ... ”

By Kelsey Bungenstock
Marketing + Communications intern

Bethany Ellen wrung her hands, trying to ignore the knots in her stomach. After excruciating planning on behalf of her and the entire NKU chapter of Best Buddies, the day had finally come. The first Best Buddies Fashion Show was set to start in less than an hour, and if everything did not go well, it could have been their last.

It didn’t go well – it went great, says Ellen, an NKU student and currently vice president of the organization.

Last year, almost 100 students and parents gathered in the Student Union ballroom to cheer on members of Best Buddies, referred to as ‘Buddies’, as they took to the stage to strut their stuff. Different extracurricular organizations on NKU’s campus partnered up with Best Buddies for the show, in order to promote inclusiveness on campus.

As the second annual Best Buddies Fashion Show approaches tonight, organizers say they hope the second show goes just as well.

Best Buddies pairs NKU students with those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), and allows them to socialize and be involved in their communities. The program has strived to get their name out there, and encourages NKU students to pledge against using “the r-word,” or referring to people and things as “retarded.”

“The fashion show is our way to bring the campus in our mission and for our friends with disabilities to feel like they are a part of the community here at NKU,” President Summer Buchanan said.

Last year, groups of all kinds from NKU, including Greek Life, Common Ground, and NKU R.O.C.K.S., were encouraged to participate. After donating $20 to Best Buddies, they were able to walk with their buddy on stage to a song of the group’s choosing.

Alpha Phi Omega, NKU’s coed service fraternity, was one of 12 groups to participate in last year’s fashion show. Alpha Phi Omega is returning this year, now with 20 on-campus organizations participating. Ashley Meyer and Jordan Helfst, who participated through Alpha Phi Omega last year, found the show to be the perfect way to bridge the gap between Best Buddies and other groups on campus.

“I had heard of [Best Buddies] before and wanted to get involved in some way,” Meyer said. “The Fashion Show was the perfect way to do so.”

One of the goals for the show was to make an impact on NKU’s campus. While Best Buddies had to reach out to organizations to ask them to join the fun in 2014, Ellen noted that this year, groups came to them to ask if they could participate.

“It's a very humbling experience, and I was glad APO could be a part of it,” Helfst said. “It's beneficial to the Buddies, the organizations, and those who attend the event.”

According to Ellen, the vice president of Best Buddies, there was only one payment package for last year’s fashion show - $20.

About Best Buddies

The show will start at 7 tonight in the Student Union Ballroom. Admission to the show is free, but only 175 seats will be available, so officials say to get there early.

Offering a variety of programs in schools and communities, Best Buddies is dedicated to helping those with intellectual and developmental disabilities become more independent and more included in the community. They achieve this through their three pillars of Best Buddies programs:

●      One-on-one friendship

●      Leadership development

●      Integrated employment

When people with disabilities are unable to attain or maintain a job, it is most often due to an absence of social skills, rather than an inability to perform the work required. Studies show that people with disabilities tend to only have three close people in  their lives, which usually include parents or caretakers. Best Buddies was created to give people with disabilities the social opportunities they need and deserve.

“A few people from the organizations told me they wanted to donate more, so this year, we offered various totals they could donate,” said Ellen, a 20-year-old public relations major at NKU. “Raising the price for everyone didn’t seem fair, and this way, organizations had options.”

In honor of the show’s ‘A Latte Love’ theme, three different payment packages were created: Tall, Grande, and Venti.

While the Tall package offered the same experience as last year’s lone package at the same price, Grande, which cost $30, and Venti, which cost $45, allow a Buddy to have their NKU Buddy walk onstage with them, as well as the organization representative. This feature was added so Buddies who were nervous about being on stage would not feel excluded from participating.

“This show is all about inclusiveness,” Ellen said. “It gives those with disabilities a chance to have fun and feel like they belong at NKU.”