Best Buddies Friendship Walk
by Andrew Millard | Nov. 15, 2022
On May 7, I attended the 2022 Best Buddies Friendship Walk along with 130 other Hawaiian Electric employees. Together we raised a total of $8,100 for Best Buddies to help expand their programs in Hawaii. When I saw the walk pop up as an employee volunteer event, I thought it was a great opportunity to represent my company as well as support my girlfriend Junka who is an active member of the nonprofit’s program. Since I decided to participate, I figured I would do some research on what Best Buddies is all about.
Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization that provides support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The key types of support offered are one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living. Best Buddies is spread across the world with programs in 56 countries. About 200 million people around the world have IDD, with 7.5 million in the United States. Sadly, 81% of adults with IDD do not have a job. Best Buddies hosts the Friendship Walk every year to raise awareness and funds for people with disabilities. This year, there were 40,000 walkers nationwide.
In Hawaii, three walks were held, one each on Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island, with many more across the nation. I took part in the Oahu event where we walked three laps around Magic Island for a total of three miles. We started the day with breakfast followed by warm-up exercises. After, there were some shout outs to community leaders and discussion about program activities.
We then walked the laps with people cheering us on from the sidelines. I walked with Junka and her buddy, although we did end up a bit tired by the third lap. Junka has participated in three friendship walks and was even the president of the UH Manoa Chapter in 2021. I didn’t realize she has been so involved in Best Buddies. I mean, sure I knew Junka has a buddy she hangs out with every now and then, but president was a surprise!
I learned Junka originally joined because she always wanted to work in the special education field. She had limited involvement in high school but really wanted to play an active role in college. Today she works at a clinic that provides behavioral services to children that are not able to participate in the public education system. It starts to make sense why she took the lead at her chapter.
I was curious what it meant to be the chapter president and found out Junka was responsible for pairing friendship buddies, planning monthly chapter events and handling activity reports. Members are paired with a buddy to hang out one-on-one. The monthly events were usually buddy oriented and included beach day, bowling and themed activities — such as Game Day or Arts and Crafts — at the UH Manoa campus. Sometimes there were also fundraisers such as the Friendship Jam, selling food or coupons to restaurants like Subway or McDonalds. The Friendship Jam is a fundraiser dinner held in participating cities that recognizes the community’s most active leaders as Champions of the Year.
All in all, I was grateful to be able to join with my community, represent my workplace and support my girlfriend’s social cause all in one event. In 2023 Hawaiian Electric again will be participating in the Best Buddies Friendship Walk. Hope to see you there!
Andrew Millard is a digital communications analyst at Hawaiian Electric Company.