Student club fosters community for individuals with disabilities

Out of all of the opportunities provided to students to continually grow in their faith, morality, and spirit of giving, one in particular stands out as consistently allowing students to give of themselves in a way they might not have experienced before: Best Buddies

Notre Dame Best Buddies seeks to build personal relationships between college students and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Notre Dame chapter is part of an international organization, Best Buddies International, which works with middle and high schools in addition to college campuses.  

Vice President of Notre Dame Best Buddies, Rocco Browning, shared with the Rover, “We have 50 buddies and a lot of members, probably around 200.” 

When asked about his involvement with Best Buddies, Browning said, “I love Best Buddies for a lot of different reasons. Getting to see my buddy Andrew each week is reason enough, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The club is a great opportunity to set our own unique differences aside and celebrate friendship in the purest form.” He continued, “I think you really get a chance to be more empathetic with those around you, and that’s a really awesome thing.” 

An officer for Notre Dame Best Buddies, Katie Finn, shared a similar sentiment. Finn said, “I love the reciprocity of Best Buddies! Not only do our buddies gain friendship, but so do we.” 

She continued, “What I’ve learned over time from Best Buddies opens my eyes and inspires me to open other people’s eyes everyday through awareness.” 

Gratitude for this community not only exudes from buddies and students, but also from parents of the buddies who participate. One mother shared with the Rover, “I signed Charlie up so he could meet friends and have a buddy to do things with. Notre Dame Best Buddies is perfect! He loves to be social and this was a great program. Charlie has met a lot of friends and we have too.” She ended by warmly expressing, “Thank you Notre Dame Best Buddies!!” 

This semester, Best Buddies held celebrations for both Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. Both events were highly attended and included lively conversation over some tasty treats, in addition to much singing and dancing. In April, Best Buddies will have their annual prom, which many students and buddies are looking forward to. 

Senior Keaton Rodgers noted, “Best Buddies not only sparks friendships and builds community for the 50 buddies, but also for the college students involved. Through these opportunities to foster friendships with each other, both the student and the individual with the disability learn to be more loving and compassionate with those whom they encounter.” 

Rodgers continued, “Sadly, I didn’t join until my senior year, but I have loved every minute of the time I have gotten to spend with my buddy Charlie this year, especially dancing, since he has the best dance moves. Getting to know him, hearing him laugh, and seeing him smile has brought immense joy to my life in a very special way, and it has inspired me to be the best version of a friend, brother, and, hopefully in the future, father that I can be.” 

If you have ever considered joining Best Buddies, the club leaders enthusiastically suggested that you should “Join!!” Browning said, “Anyone can come to our events! They are every other Tuesday and all you need to do is register with Best Buddies, which I can help anyone do.” 

Best Buddies can be found on social media sites such as Instagram, where they post about all of their events, or you can contact Rocco Browning at to learn more.

Bridgette Rodgers is a sophomore studying political science and theology. Her March Madness Bracket didn’t go as planned. Unfortunately she rooted for the wrong underdogs. Please send condolences to

Photo Credit: Notre Dame Best Buddies Instagram

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