Today’s SPMB Spotlight shines on Best Buddies International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
SPMB has been fortunate to build a strong, enduring, and mutually-beneficial friendship with the Best Buddies community. Over the past few years, we have proudly supported the organization’s mission and fundraising efforts through ongoing volunteer work and donation. The key individuals responsible for helping SPMB continually grow its relationship with Best Buddies are our colleagues Colin Eighmy and Kendra Stumbos. In this interview, Colin and Kendra share what this powerful organization means to them and the IDD community it so beautifully serves.
Tell us a bit about when and why you first became involved with Best Buddies.
Kendra: I first got involved with Best Buddies two years ago when SPMB sponsored their San Francisco Friendship Walk. Since then, I’ve sought out opportunities to further support this extraordinary organization by taking on a more active leadership role and serving as SPMB’s Bay Area liaison to Best Buddies. Today, I also serve on Best Buddies Sponsorship Committee for the Bay Area Friendship Walk, one of their largest annual fundraising events. On a personal level, Best Buddies’ mission is very close to my heart. I’ve worked with the IDD community since I was 16 years old, so being able to share this passion and experience with my colleagues has been an incredible gift.
Colin: Most people seek out volunteer work because they want to make a positive impact or give back to someone or something that’s dear to them. But for me, Best Buddies has truly changed my life and I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of such an amazing family. These incredible individuals are role models to me and the true heroes of our communities and they deserve to be celebrated. My work with Best Buddies is just a small gesture of my gratitude for what this community has given me. I aspire to have even an ounce of the bravery my friends at Best Buddies display every day of their lives.
What have been some of your favorite Best Buddies events?
Colin: I was fortunate to be selected to travel to Indiana and participate in the Best Buddies annual inclusion event. I was there for three days and it was truly a life-changing experience. I got to hear first-hand from the Best Buddies members and participants why this organization is so important and meaningful to them. I’ve never been so inspired and grateful to be around such a wonderful group of people.
Kendra: My favorite events have been the SPMB workshops we host for Best Buddies’ job seekers around resume writing, practice interviews, and job hunting. It’s been really rewarding and fun to use our skills as recruiters to help participants refine their resumes and LinkedIn profiles as they pursue jobs and internships.
In what ways have you seen Best Buddies grow over the years?
Kendra: In response to the pandemic, Best Buddies had to essentially transform into a virtual environment overnight to serve its community — no small feat for even the most well-resourced organizations! Best Buddies quickly adapted their programs to be even more inclusive and accessible to meet the needs of its members, most of whom faced even more social isolation as a result of the pandemic. It was remarkable how effectively Best Buddies responded to ensure they remained connected to and supportive of members.
Colin: When I first came on board three years ago, Best Buddies had very little presence in Colorado. Now with the help and support of 500+ active participants, we have been able to raise $200,000 and accomplish our original goal of opening a Colorado state office. We have also integrated a Best Buddies program into every high school within the Denver Metro area. Lastly, we initiated the national sponsorship of Best Buddies by Diversant and SPMB, and established a lasting partnership between Best Buddies and Charter Communications accessibility program.
What are the most exciting success stories you’ve seen working with Best Buddies?
Colin: I wanted to build a Best Buddies presence in Colorado with my family and friends. I reached out to my entire network and I was blown away by the love and support we received. We came together because the message behind what Best Buddies stands for is the most important thing in life. Every single person—no matter what—deserves love, support, and compassion within their social circle, education, and overall community.
Kendra: Since SPMB started partnering with Best Buddies the most rewarding part has been watching my colleagues get involved with the organization and the broader IDD community. Over the last two years I have seen colleagues go out of their way to stay in touch with Best Buddies members they met during an event, support the organization outside of work, and network with job seekers to connect them to potential employers.
How can individuals and companies get involved with and support Best Buddies?
Kendra: Best Buddies programs are making a difference by providing a more inclusive world and you can be part of it as an individual or company. There is something for anyone looking to make a difference — from volunteering at a fundraising or training event to directly mentoring a buddy to hiring a qualified Best Buddies candidate at your company. There are opportunities big and small, all of which are impactful on the Best Buddies community.
Colin: None of the Best Buddies success in Colorado or other states would be possible without the amazing Alyssa Stump (Director, Mission Advancement at Best Buddies). Alyssa has been my partner in crime for the past three years and she is a great resource for individuals and organizations interested in getting involved!
Thank you to Kendra and Colin for your continued leadership with Best Buddies! It’s an absolute privilege for us at SPMB to partner with an organization that’s enriching the lives of so many.