The sun was shining magnificently during the Student Activities fair my freshman year of college. I wandered around the lawn, from table to table, club to club, trying to discern how I would spend those four formative years of my life. Although I had an inkling of the organizations I was looking for, I tried to be open-minded to the whole experience. Thankfully, my future found me.
Kate was sitting at the Best Buddies table, smiling ear to ear; her warmth drew me in immediately. She was the Buddy Director for the Georgetown chapter of Best Buddies, an organization that facilitates one-to-one friendships for people with intellectual disabilities. Kate spoke with unmatched enthusiasm and her spirit was contagious. I signed up for Best Buddies on the spot.
My first year of Best Buddies, I was a general member. The years following, an Activities coordinator, College Buddy Director, and eventually the Chapter President. All the while, Kate was by my side. We planned Best Buddies events, baked our fair share of cookies, and drank more than enough chocolate milk at our favorite coffee shop, Saxby’s. Sleepovers, High School Musical sing-alongs, and chicken finger dates brightened my college experience. Kate and the greater Best Buddies population restored my faith in people.
My original understanding of volunteerism was all wrong, I came to realize. I had initially thought that we volunteer to give of ourselves, but I was always on the receiving end of the service with Best Buddies. I came away from every encounter a better, more genuine and whole person. To this day, Kate shares with me an incomparable vitality. She lives with purpose, embraces everyone she encounters, and is never without a smile.
Although I graduated from school two years ago and have since moved away from Washington, Kate and I talk on the phone weekly and write letters to one another. She is extraordinary at keeping in touch. Another testament to how deeply she cares about the people she loves. How abundant her capacity is to make people feel significant and valued. While schedules prevent us from getting together as frequently as I would like (Kate’s social calendar is and always has been extensive), we are still able to have sleepovers every few months, thankfully. Homemade pizza, Scrabble, pajamas, and movies always make for the perfect girls’ night.
I couldn’t have imagined the world Kate would open for me when I was just a freshman looking to belong. She gives me a fresh perspective, honest advice, and the very best hugs. Kate reminds me to take life as it comes and simply do my best. There are never pretenses or motives. Kate is free from these unsavory habits that litter a great part of our society. Some may say that Kate has a disability. To me, she has nothing short of every ability that is truly worthwhile.