The Best Buddies club has been hosting virtual events this fall as a result of COVID-related restrictions on in-person gatherings.
The club’s goal is to help foster friendships between Lehigh students and people in surrounding communities with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Typically, the club’s members would partner with a “buddy” from the local area in an effort to get to know them through various in-person activities.
This year, the group has altered their past traditions and has developed new events to fit the virtual environment.
The group has held their meetings over Zoom and has utilized features like breakout rooms to cultivate more personal conversations.
Neena Shah, ’22, the club’s secretary, said although there were initial challenges moving the club’s activities to a virtual setting, Best Buddies has still been able to host worthwhile events for the club members and their partners.
“We basically changed up all of the events we do just to tailor it toward this online world that we are living in,” Shah said.
The club has hosted special themed activities including a costume contest for Halloween and trivia. They also have various upcoming events planned for the rest of the semester, including a virtual movie night and a Zumba class.
In order to keep buddies excited for the events, the group has also been working to send out themed gift baskets and prizes.
“For the movie night, we are going to send them popcorn and candy,” Shah said.
Although conducting group activities in a virtual setting is challenging, there have been a lot of positive aspects.
Emily Barlow, ’22, the group’s treasurer, said the online events have made it much easier for members to attend.
Both the students and buddies are able to log on and participate in the events from their location, making events more accessible for everyone.
“I definitely think the involvement of members is actually higher,” Barlow said.
Rachel Oshins, ’24, a new member of the group, said her experience so far has been enjoyable since it has given her an opportunity to form friendships with the buddies, as well as to connect with other Lehigh students.
“I think it’s been a very well-run experience so far,” Oshins said. “Although we aren’t able to be in person, there is still a really good sense of community.”