Connecting with Community: Best Buddies Indiana

Madison Peterman, left, and Emily Novicki, right (WTHR photo)
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MOORESVILLE, Ind. (WTHR) - Making friends isn't the easiest thing to do. Best Buddies Indiana is changing that in some area schools.

The organization works to provide friendship, leadership and employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities like Down syndrome, autism and cerebral palsy.

Best Buddies Madison and Emily know the power of a strong friendship.

The two met at Mooresville High School.

"She actually asked me to be her buddy!" Madison Peterman said.

And they've been friends ever since.

"All of us, regardless if you have a disability or not, can really relate to the importance of having a good friend in your life," said Natalie Seibert, state director for Best Buddies Indiana.

Best Buddies helps facilitate friendships, but once they take off, there's no stopping them, Emily Novicki graduated last year, but the two are still close.

"I've been at her house, she's been at mine, we go to movies," Emily said.

Like anyone their age, they go to dinner, take lots of pictures, and last year it was a big prom celebration.

"Actually, I've been looked up to from her," Emily said.

"She actually is my number one inspiration," Madison added. "She goes through so much, and yet she has such a beautiful outlook on everything. She's seriously some sunshine."

Robin, Emily's mom, says the two girls bring out the best in each other.

"Madison, being as outgoing as she is, brought out a different part of Emily that we usually didn't see very often and we were grateful for that," she said.

Madison has decided that when she goes to college, she'll study to be a pediatrician.

Natalie says that's not uncommon among Buddies.

"We hear from a lot of our participants that don't have IDD [Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities] that because of best buddies and their experience, they decide that they want to pursue a career as a special education teacher, or they want to continue to work with people with IID and have those relationships."

Their friendship is genuine, something Best Buddies hopes will continue to grow for years to come, for all of their matches.

"Emily and I, we have a friendship, not just because she has a disability and I don't. It's way more than that. I don't see Emily as someone with Down syndrome, I see her as my best friend. I don't see her as anything more or less."

A true friend, someone who's with you through the good and the bad - and with these young women, lots of laughter, too.

Best Buddies has chapters throughout Indiana in elementary, middle and high schools. They even offer adult friendship programs. Click here to find the chapter nearest you.