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Carson-Newman University's 'Best Buddies' program named best in Tennessee in 2013

5:37 PM, Jul 12, 2013   |    comments
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Eunice Kennedy Shriver pushed for the creation of Special Olympics. Her son Anthony Shriver founded another program for people with disabilities called Best Buddies. A local chapter won a state award for its commitment to people with intellectual disabilities.

During the school year, Brandie Gilliam and Wendell Williams get together once a week. They're part of an organization at Carson-Newman University called Best Buddies.

"We like to go eat ice cream, we like to play basketball, we like to take walks, and we usually when I go over to his house the group home we usually sit on his little swing and rock," Brandie Gilliam with Carson-Newman Best Buddies said.

Wendell is considered non-verbal but he and Brandie have no problem communicating with sign language and eye contact and simple words.

"We've also kind of come up with our own little language together. Nobody else understands it but him and I so it works," she said.

"Our program is completely student run. It is very easy to be the Faculty Advisor at Carson-Newman because our students are so outstanding they work really hard and I really am behind the scenes," Kim Hawkins said.

Faculty Advisor Kim Hawkins explained the goal of Best Buddies is creating one-to-one friendships between students and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"But the mission, the vision, the greater vision of Best Buddies is to put themselves out of business. So the hope is that these individuals will become so integrated into the fibers of their individual communities that the need for Best Buddies would not even exist," she said.

Carson-Newman University's Chapter of Best Buddies is the 2013 Outstanding College Chapter of the Year for the state of Tennessee. July 19th they'll find out how they place for the Overall Outstanding Chapter of the Year.

"I feel like everyone who is a part of it has a really good time and really enjoys it," Brandie said.

She just graduated so Wendell will get another Best Buddy in the fall. She plans to teach Special Ed and she hopes to keep in touch with Wendell.

"I hope that he gathers that he has a good friend and that I love him," she said.

Carson-Newman competed against Tennessee's five other college Best Buddies chapters: Belmont University, Lipscomb University, Middle Tennessee State University, Trevecca Nazarene University and Vanderbilt University.

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