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Rediscover Best Buddies: Building a More Inclusive World

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Guest blogger Tracy Churchman shares the amazing offerings and wonders of today's Best Buddies program

Hi, my name is Tracy Churchman and I work for Best Buddies in North Texas. I have an amazing (and stubborn) 20-year-old son, Tysen, who has Down syndrome. He is my oldest of three boys and has given me my life’s purpose...advocating for Tysen and others like him with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD). I literally don’t know where I would be today if this incredible (and stubborn) human didn’t make me a mama...did I mention he’s stubborn?

The Best Buddies Mission

Tysen and Buddy since 4th grade, Allie

Imagine a world where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) always have a friend to make weekend plans with, are building careers they are passionate about, advocating for themselves as leaders in the community, and living independently. These are things that all people hope for themselves and for the ones they love — insert BEST BUDDIES. Best Buddies is an international, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides meaningful opportunities for one-to-one friendships, supported employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for people with IDD.

It is no exaggeration to say that Best Buddies has single-handedly made the most positive impact on my son in his short 20 years on this planet. I got Tysen involved with Best Buddies the minute I learned about it when he was in elementary school. Since then, he has made countless friends (with and without an IDD), has a richer social life than my other two boys combined, continues to find his passion with his job coach at a job he feels fulfilled in...and gets paid equally for it, and continues to learn self-advocacy and leadership skills - all thanks to Best Buddies.

The Imaginary Finish Line

While Tysen was in school, I kept seeing his graduation day as this imaginary finish line. I just kept telling myself, if I can get him over that finish line, he will be ok. I will be ok. We will be ok. It will all be ok.

In 2021, he did it. He crossed the graduation finish line and I immediately felt panic set what??? There are so many statistics out there that say so many people with an IDD go from graduation straight to the couch. According to an article published in 2021 in The Texas Standard, 65% of Texans who live with a disability are unemployed. That’s simply not good enough.

Thankfully, Best Buddies was there to fill in the missing pieces for my son, immediately following graduation. If he gets a day to “sit on the couch”, it’s pretty rare, haha. As an Ambassador, he is too busy with everything Best Buddies to have too much unstructured downtime, thank goodness! The North Texas Best Buddies community is always hosting group events, outings, classes, and more...and that’s just for the Adult group! Best Buddies programs start in elementary school and continue into old age. In fact, Tysen still hangs out with his “neurotypical” friends from the 4th grade, and I imagine that’s a friendship they will all carry with them throughout their lives.

Rediscovering Best Buddies

I invite you and your family to become a part of this global movement! It’s my personal goal to work myself out of a job; where inclusion is the norm...not the rare instance. Click below for more about Best Buddies programs and how to get involved:

Our daughter Gwendolyn was in Best Buddies while in school and met some wonderful friends. However, I suspect like many, she lost touch with the program as she graduated. Tysen offers an inspiring story that stands to inform us all that Best Buddies can continue to be part of adults with IDD. I never connected Best Buddies with vocational and living opportunities...until now. It's time to rediscover Best Buddies. -Steve Friedman

What are your company’s core values? Do your employees and colleagues believe in the power of inclusion? If so, click below to find out more about corporate engagement opportunities:

And there's more! A Leadership program that serves our community as well as an inclusive housing program that meets their personal aspirations aspirations:

Together, we can build a more inclusive world!

“The moment our daughter, Delaney, came into this world is the very moment we learned she had Down syndrome. We fell in love immediately and hoped that she would have friends and be happy, which is the same for most parents. We all hope that our children make the most out of life but some of our children are going to have a harder time making friends. Some of our children may never talk, or walk, and some may never know the right thing to say in social settings. Best Buddies helps with all of this. It gives our children a genuine, safe, and fun opportunity for friendship. Best Buddies is giving my daughter the priceless gift of friendship — someone to eat lunch with, someone to high-five in the hallways at school, someone to meet up with at football games. You are giving my child the very things I hoped for on the day she was born. I can’t thank you enough.”

-Emily Dunigan

Get Involved Today!

Best Buddies programs help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, and develop self-advocacy and communication skills.

Learn more. Find your local Best Buddies chapter. Discover their integrated work programs, leadership development programs, and inclusive living programs TODAY!

Support people with IDD today by visiting


I'm thrilled to announce The Essential Guide was honored with the Gold Award by the Nonfiction Authors Association!

The Essential Guide provides step-by-step support to:

  • Inspire mindset shifts toward one of independence and possibilities

  • Foster independence building blocks from the earliest age

  • Highlight health risks and financial resources every family must know

  • Detail education and work options to promote community inclusion

  • Evaluate family- and community-based home options including the search process

The Guide presents action items and worksheets to equip you with a clear timeline and path. The resources and references sections will save you time and money in your search for information and organizations that support your family’s journey.

“As parents, we are the experts of our loved ones, and this is an excellent resource in navigating our own decisions to better support the goals and dreams of those we love.” Tara Goodwin, D.O., Adult Down Syndrome Clinic, QuestCare Dallas

Friedman intersperses relatable and inspiring stories from a wide array of families. Insights from many experts in the fields of communications, education, health, and financial planning provide the confidence and guidance for you to navigate your family’s path toward independence.


Beyond Down Syndrome is proud to donate a portion of all book sales proceeds to LuMind IDSC to support Down syndrome research specifically focused on the link with Alzheimer's disease. Did you know that 12% of the US population will be afflicted by Alzheimer's but 95% of the Down syndrome community will have Alzheimer's by the age of 65, often exhibiting first signs decades earlier. Together we can make a difference!


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