Guest Editor: Ryan LaCosse – Best Buddies

What is Best Buddies?

First of all, I want to say thank you for allowing me to become a part of your world over the last 10 years in Peoria! My time spent at Jamieson School and the PwUP parties lead me to a very amazing point in my life… I am now the Area Director for Best Buddies in Central Illinois!!!!

So, what is Best Buddies? Best Buddies is all about inclusion and friendship opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities! This process starts in elementary schools, in which we are in the process of growing in central Illinois! As our friends/family with IDD become teenagers and adults, we match them with a peer buddy! This isn’t a mentorship, this is a one-to-one friendship! It’s building meaningful friendships between people with and without IDD. This includes going to Chiefs/Rivermen games, going to lunch, hanging out and enjoying someone else’s company! We even offer e-Buddies, an email program, in which a participant with IDD communicates online with a friend without IDD.

Then, when a person with IDD graduates from HS or College, we can help them find integrated and competitive employment! We aren’t talking about doing dishes or taking out the trash. We are talking about employment opportunities that allow people with IDD to earn an income, pay taxes, and continuously and independently support themselves! We provide training, not only to the buddy looking for work but also to the workplace to make sure they understand the uniqueness of their new hire. We also keep in contact with the employer and employee throughout the entire duration of employment to make sure that each company/buddy can be successful. 81% of adults with IDD do not have a paid job in the community. We are here to change that in 2020!

We also provide leadership training! Best Buddies educates and empowers people with and without IDD to become leaders, public speakers and advocates through our Ambassadors and Promoters programs! We are in the process of planning events for Citizens opportunities and Jobs for early 2020! Plus, we have our Friendship Walk, April 25th, at the Corn Crib in Normal!

For more information on jobs, email! To have Best Buddies in your school, email And for general info, details on the Friendship Walk, or maybe you want to get involved with Best Buddies, email me!