Communication senior Kelli Greenberg has a lot in common with her friend Meg: Both girls have seen the musical "Jersey Boys" and are crazy about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
Greenberg is a Northwestern student. Her buddy, Meg, is a 40-year-old resident at the Chicago Misericordia home for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Greenberg is the president of the NU chapter of Best Buddies, a group that visits adults with intellectual disabilities every other week to build friendships. Starting Saturday, Best Buddies will celebrate its first Best Buddies Awareness Week. The week, beginning with a 5K friendship walk around campus, will also include a visit to their Misericordia buddies, a Buffalo Wild Wings fundraiser, a cupcake fundraiser and canning for Misericordia in downtown Evanston.
Although the discounted registration period has already passed, students can still register for the walk for $15 on the day of the event. According to Greenberg, 15 percent of the proceeds from registration will go to whichever sorority or fraternity, and residence hall or college, has the most participants in the walk.
"It's definitely important for people to participate because we are not funded by ASG," said Laura Danforth, Best Buddies public relations coordinator. "All of our money has to come from within the community."
Greenberg has been involved with Best Buddies since her junior year of high school. She and Meg have been buddies for four years.
"People gravitate towards their buddy," Greenberg said. "Everyone just sort of clicks with their buddy naturally."
She said one of her memories of Meg is dressing up every Halloween with the other Best Buddies members and bringing costumes for Meg to wear. Greenberg also said as soon as February gets nearer, Meg makes sure to remind her that she has to get her a gift.
"Every February, she's like, ‘Remember: my birthday,'" Greenberg laughed.
Like Greenberg, Danforth also has happy memories about her buddy, Peggy.
"It's really nice to see her really happy when she sees me," the SESP sophomore said. "We had a Valentine's Day ball, and I made her a card. When I brought it to her, she got really excited about it and she showed it to everyone."
To some of the Best Buddies members, it is sometimes challenging to interact with their buddies.
"Sometimes communicating with them can be difficult," Danforth said. "It's just a matter of being patient and asking them to repeat themselves."
Still, they say that the Best Buddies experience is a rewarding one.
"At the end of the day, it's about acceptance and embracing people for who they are," Greenberg said. "That doesn't necessarily apply to only people with disabilities. It applies to everybody you meet in life."
Danielle Chun, Best Buddies co-events coordinator, got involved with the group in high school because she wanted to know how to interact with the special-education program students at her school. She said she hopes students do not approach Best Buddies as merely a service project.
"It's an opportunity to invest in a friendship that is purely a friendship," the Weinberg junior said. "To me, it's an equalizer. You think you're going in and helping someone else, but it's a mutual relationship."