Duq Best Buddies chapter surpasses $5,000 fundraising goal at Friendship Walk

Ember Duke | staff photographer | Duquesne's Best Buddies chapter raised $5,203 and surpassed their fundraising goal.

Ember Duke | Staff Writer

The Duquesne University chapter of Best Buddies, a nonprofit which works to end the stigma about intellectual and developmental disabilities, landed in the top five fundraising teams for the organization’s annual Friendship Walk on April 7.

On Sunday morning, hundreds of people joined together at Highmark Stadium for the Friendship Walk, keynote addresses and games before the walk.

Best Buddies is a national volunteer based nonprofit offering one-to-one friendships, employment and living opportunities and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Many local high schools and colleges have chapters which are under the umbrella of the larger organization. This year’s Duquesne chapter raised $5,023 of their $5,000 fundraising goal for the Friendship walk as of Monday.

Delaney Nichols, Best Buddies Duquesne chapter vice president, said the walk is a celebration of the work the different chapters and individuals do throughout the year.

“So every school can nominate people in buddy pairs that they thought did a good job or spent a lot of time together or were just creating a really inclusive environment in the club itself,” Nichols said. “Then they get honored at the event if they’re chosen by Best Buddies Pittsburgh.”

The university has a program with St. Anthony’s School to partner students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with Duquesne students. One student, Anita Iyengar, was the top fundraiser for the Duquesne chapter, who raised $1,785 and landed as the sixth top fundraiser in the Pittsburgh area. She did a lot of her fundraising by sharing information and donation links to people she knows.

“Some friends and family from out of town donated to best buddies,” Iyengar said.

The chapter’s year-round fundraising goes toward their on-campus events, such as concerts, arts and crafts and a talent show. Separate fundraising for the annual Friendship Walk goes directly to Best Buddies Pennsylvania to help fund larger organized events, which bring together the separate chapters.

The Duquesne club has over 100 involved members. By pairing students in “Buddy Pairs,” the organization hopes to create a fun learning environment.

“Duquesne actually has the St. Anthony’s school within Duquesne, so it’s a program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to learn life skills on a college campus,” Meghan MacGregor said.“The whole point of Best Buddies is to promote inclusion and one on one friendships.”

Iyengar has been involved with Best Buddies since 2016 and has enjoyed many of the events the Duquesne chapter has organized.

“I like doing the dances, the games [and] the crafting,” Iyengar said.

One of the club’s upcoming events is the Spread the Word concert on Thursday. Nichols, said it’s the organizations big on campus event for the year and they invite many Duquesne music groups to perform.

“It’s just basically like, an inclusion concert is kind of how we refer to it,” Nichols said.

While the event is centered around music they also have raffle prizes, refreshments and speeches from people in the organization.

“So I think we’ll have four groups total performing,” Nichols said. “The buddies will give speeches. So they just talked about their experience and what inclusion means to them. And usually, they go up with their like, buddy pair, and they do it together to show a united front and how our friendships are representative of inclusion and how we’re trying to promote it throughout the community.

For MacGregor, the atmosphere of the chapter feels like spending time with friends, and she looks forward to the fun she has at each event, especially when many end in dance parties, she said.

“You’re genuinely just taking two hours out of your day to go hang out with your friends,” she said. “My best buddy is genuinely my best friend.”

In the years she’s been involved, MacGregor has gotten family and friends involved in Best Buddies as well. It’s easy for her to advocate for the club because she sees how important it is to everyone involved, she said.

“You genuinely see the impact that it has on people’s lives,” MacGregor said. “Because it’s like, it’s a place where not only do they get to hang out with each other and they also get to hang out with people who are at least supposed to be their peers.”