As part of the final stage of the Operation Kids Rebuilding Dreams in New Orleans campaign, funding was provided to re-launch the New Orleans chapter of Best Buddies. As we assessed the needs and priorities of giving in a community that needed so much, you may wonder what the motivation was to include Best Buddies.
According to research, approximately 53% of people with intellectual disabilities will never receive a visit from anyone outside of a paid caregiver or a family member. In Louisiana, this means about 155,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities may never have a friend. And with all the focus on reconstruction, many other things were set by the wayside and forgotten.
Through the funding that Operation Kids and Drew Brees’ Brees Dream Foundation raised and provided for Best Buddies Louisiana, friendship programs throughout the Greater New Orleans Area have been set up to facilitate approximately 400 one-on-one friendships between children with intellectual disabilities and a mentor. Through this program more than 2,000 children will be impacted statewide.
The impact of a one-to-one mentoring relationship is an amazing thing. Yes, the person with the disability is benefited in many ways, and that warms the soul. But equally benefited are the mentors, often richly blessed by their relationships with their buddies..
As adults, many of us have found our way into volunteering and making charitable donations. Whether in church groups, local chapters of national charities or a cause or issue of personal importance to us, many adults give of their time and resources. But part of the magic of Best Buddies is the fact that these mentors, these “Buddies,” are not adults. They are middle and high school age students, and in some chapters college students, who at an unusually young age have caught the vision of putting the needs of others first. This is remarkable. It has been our observation over the last 10 years that actions like these put a young person on a path of service and caring in a unique and profound way throughout the rest of their lives.
In keeping with out desire to realize a “multiplier effect” from our giving – helping as many people as possible through each donation, the multiples on this gift seem obvious: children in need benefited, young people with capacity and a little time changed forever, and a community raised up by the effort. The math on this project is very strong indeed – hundreds of children and teens in New Orleans are taking advantage of the expanded program and reaching out to those who are profoundly grateful for their friendship. Hundreds of intellectually disabled children and youth in New Orleans and Louisiana have been able to expand their horizons through friendship, mentoring and other opportunities made available through these relationships. The benefits gained from these relationships spread far beyond the buddy pair – into their families, their neighborhoods, their schools and the community at large.
We salute the young mentors of New Orleans and the people involved with Best Buddies Louisiana who keep this program thriving, even through challenging times.