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Friday, May 24, 2019

Anthony Kennedy Shriver founded Best Buddies in 1989 after noticing the unjustified lack of opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to socialize with nondisabled peers. BestBuddies of Iowa (BBIA) programs empower these disenfranchised individuals in three ways in Iowa: to form meaningful friendships with peers, to improve self-advocacy and communication skills and to secure high-quality jobs in integrated settings. The IDD community that Best Buddies serves includes but is not limited to people with Down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and other undiagnosed disabilities. Internationally, Best Buddies is the largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million individuals with IDD.

Many students with IDD spend their formative years feeling isolated and alone. In Iowa, it is estimated that 65% spend most of their day separated from their peers. Studies also indicate that these students are three times as likely to be bullied as their nondisabled peers. through our school friendship chapters, we break down the isolation barriers and foster the growth of a peer support system. One-to-one interactions provide opportunities for students to learn valuable social skills from their typical peers. For these young individuals with disabilities, developing friendships is critical to a successful transition out of school and into the working world and community life, where our new Jobs Program will help to continue support for individuals with IDD throughout their lives.

BBIA operates with a state director, operations coordinator, program manager of volunteers and program manager of mission expansion. Upon the opening of the Best Buddies Jobs Program later in 2019, we will also have an employment manager. Additionally, our organization operates with a volunteer board of 17 self-advocates, family members and professionals. As a self-funded group, Best Buddies Iowa relies on fundraising, donations, community support and special events to support our programs.

Over the past 30 years, BBLC has inspired thousands of leaders to be Best Buddies advocates and to bring about social change in their communities as a once-in-a-lifetime experience uniting Best Buddies leaders, volunteers and community advocates from around the globe. Upwards of 400 Best Buddies staff, nearly 125 volunteers and more than 30 guest speakers will be present at the event celebrating the organization’s 30th anniversary. Conference attendees will gain knowledge in order to effectively advocate for a common cause while discovering the importance of their decisions, responsibilities and energy.

Our programs empower the numerous abilities of individuals with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships with their peers; secure successful jobs; live independently; improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communication skills; and feel valued by society. Today, Best Buddies’ nine formal programs — Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e-Buddies, Jobs, Ambassadors, Promoters and Inclusive Living — engage participants in each of the 50 states and in 53 countries, positively impacting the lives of more than 1.2 million people with and without disabilities around the world.

Celebrating its 30-year anniversary, Best Buddies will continue to advocate, support and provide information for individuals with IDD, their families and all Iowans in the years to come. For more information about the Best Buddies programs offered in Iowa, please visit, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at @bestbuddiesia.

Questions? Contact Best Buddies Iowa at (515) 282-6518 or


Best Buddies