Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and High School Musical songs filled Tyler Haynes Commons Saturday morning as Best Buddies members performed musical routines at the Best Buddies talent show.
Best Buddies fosters friendships by pairing University of Richmond students with a “buddy” from the Richmond area who has intellectual or developmental disabilities.
The talent show invited buddies to sign up and prepare routines to perform with other buddies or with club members. Many of the buddies chose to sing and dance, carefully planning and choreographing their routines. Club members and the buddies’ parents sat in the audience to cheer on each act. After the performances, the club president, Avery Maley, played music and all of the buddies got on stage for a dance party.
The talent show was a great way for the buddies to express themselves and for the whole club to get together, Maley said.
Susan Zvolensky attended the event to cheer on her daughter Robin, who performed a dance routine. Robin even recruited three UR students as background dancers for her performance. Robin had been very excited for the event, Zvolensky said.
“We’ve been on vacation this last week, and [Robin] was always like, ‘We’re going to get back before Saturday, right? We have to be back before the talent show,’” Zvolensky said. “She loves to dance.”
The event was about “celebrating all of our talents with no judgement behind it. It’s not a contest,” Maley said. “It’s not supposed to be a thing where people are critiquing them, and buddies can do whatever they want.”
The event also helped to show people outside of the club what Best Buddies is about, Maley said. One of Maley’s favorite parts about hosting the event at The Pier is that people walking through the Commons on the second floor stop, watch and cheer along, she said.
For Ana Salitan, a sophomore Best Buddies volunteer, events like the talent show, which allows buddies to enjoy themselves and interact with UR students, makes the club worthwhile.
“It’s just dedicating once a month, a few hours, to making your buddy’s life that much better by giving them friendship and a good time,” Salitan said. “At the end of the day, it’s only a few hours, and it’s so nice to see their reactions.”
Best Buddies aims to be a gateway to overall inclusion in society, not just at club events, Maley said. Maley hopes that the club will eventually eliminate the need for its own existence by fostering inclusion and real friendships that endure beyond designated club events, she said.
“We’re trying to show people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities that they can have friends, too,” Maley said.
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