On March 20, the Best Buddies McMaster University Chapter hosted Best Buddies Canada’s annual Hooping it Up event. The event was a free-throw competition that took place in elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities across Canada. For a $2 donation to your Best Buddies chapter, students will attempt to sink as many baskets as possible within 60 seconds.
Best Buddies Canada is an organization that promotes one-on-one friendships with students and a person with an intellectual disability. At McMaster, students in the club are paired up with people with intellectual disabilities in the Hamilton community better known as “buddies”.
Many buddies come from Community Living Hamilton, which is a centre for people with developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome and Autism. The centre offers a wide range of programs and services that appeal to every age – kids to seniors – and different levels of support.
For chapter president Melodie Kim, her involvement with Best Buddies dates back to her first year in high school.
“I noticed there were a lot of special needs students at our high school who were very isolated from the other students,” Kim said. “After getting to know about the Best Buddies program, I thought it would be a great idea to bring it to my school. I contacted Best Buddies Canada and we launched the program as a high school chapter. It was definitely a challenge starting a new club and running it, but it was awesome because we had so much interaction between the students and the special education program.”
The success of the club over the next four years was the reason why McMaster having a Best Buddies chapter played a role in Kim making her choice for post-secondary education.
“I joined in my first year and I was paired up with my buddy Laura,” Kim said. “It was a transition for me because in high school, the buddies were also in high school, but in university, they were a range of different ages. For example, my buddy Laura just turned 52 last week.”
“Commuting from campus to her house was different for me as well but it was nice because we didn’t do that in high school,” Kim added. “We also had monthly events and a lot of activities planned for us, so I got to know her a lot better through that.”
Getting to interact with people outside of the bubble that she lives in is extremely beneficial for Kim, having the chance to interact with other she would normally not encounter.
“We usually only engage with other university students but I think it’s important to interact with people from diverse backgrounds,” said Kim. “One group of people that many people do not often think about are those with intellectual disabilities. I’ve even had people ask me why I am friends with them and at first, those questions shocked me — but it made me understand even more how important is to get exposure to people who are different from you are.”
Through events like Hooping it Up, students who are not members of the club also get the opportunity to do this.
“We have really wanted to have the basketball team come for a long time now and I think this was the first year we’ve had them there,” said Kim. “It was great because obviously they were very good, so it really made the event a lot more engaging because a lot of people showed up and they were just in awe of how good they were. It was really nice to have them come out and support us.”
Christina Buttenham and Hilary Hanaka from the women’s basketball team both scored 28 baskets, while Sheldon McIntosh from the men’s team scored 20. For the buddies, Susan Holmes scored eight baskets and Jonathan Chalmers scored seven baskets.
For McIntosh, to be able to support the cause in this way allows the Marauders to show a different side of the student-athletes.
“I think it’s important because it shows that as athletes, we care more about sports and about the importance of giving back to the community,” said McIntosh.
The event is one of hopefully many more sporting events with the Marauders that Kim and the Best Buddies hope to hold in the future. To be able to give those in need a real friendship is a valuable experience to everyone involved.