The Buddy System

Helping Those With Disabilities Live Happy, Productive Lives

Best Buddies International, founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, has been offering friendship, employment, and leadership development programs for individuals with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) since 1989. The organization has been in Tennessee since 2010, and in May, moved into a beautiful new office space in Brentwood.

“Since the pandemic, our team had been working remotely, and we’re excited to be in an office again, thanks to an in-kind partnership with Lockton Companies,” says Best Buddies State Director, Will Macon. “The space, in the Seven Springs development, is stunning and creates instant credibility for our organization. Beyond our dedicated offices, Lockton provides access to internet, storage, printing, and all communal areas, and we’re thrilled about the opportunities this will create.”

Hitting the ground running, Lockton and Best Buddies recently co-hosted a retirement party for long-time supporter and Nashville Predator, Pekka Rinne, who chose to spend his last night in Nashville with his friends from Best Buddies.

Maggie Spalding, senior vice president of Lockton and Best Buddies advisory board chair, helped facilitate this arrangement. “One of the three pillars of Lockton, along with clients and associates, is our communities,” she says. “Since our inception, Lockton has given back to our communities, not because we have to, but because we want to. Lockton Nashville has been a sponsor for Best Buddies for a number of years including July’s Friendship Ball at Bridgestone Arena. We are excited to welcome them into our space, giving them a place to work, meet, and have amazing events.”  

Maggie first became involved with the organization 12 years ago when Anneliese Barron helped bring Best Buddies to Tennessee. “She had a son with Down syndrome and more than anything wanted to know who was going to be there for him and who was going to love him for who he is,” says Will.

“When Anneliese shared her goal with me, I was really interested,” says Maggie. “My brother Mike Maguire [who has Down syndrome] had just moved here from California, and there were not great programs for adults with special needs. Anneliese invited me to a cocktail party to learn about Best Buddies and I brought Mike with me. During the party, he kept saying, ‘Sis, I want to do this.’”

Sure enough, Maggie became the founding board chair for Best Buddies, and Mike became Best Buddies with Pekka. Twelve years later, when asked to step up again and help the organization rebound from the pandemic, Maggie said yes.

“We are recovering strongly and are currently proud to have 112 school chapters across the state, from elementary schools to colleges,” says Will. “Friendship is a lifelong need, and we even have 300-plus one-to-one matches between adults with and without disabilities through our citizens program. We also have a jobs program, where we partner with corporations across the state to find competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities.”

Best Buddies invites everyone to join (or start) a school’s chapter this fall. Attending the Best Buddies Gala is a great way to support its mission of inclusion. This year’s Gala will be held at the Factory at Franklin on Nov. 11, and will include an open bar, dinner, silent and live auctions, special guests from the Nashville Predators, and live music.

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