Inspiring and building friendships through Best Buddies


Courtesy of Kelly Quinn

Kelly Quinn, standing to the left, poses with Best Buddies at a Pre-Season St. Louis Blues game hosted by St. Louis Blues Alumni. This opportunity helped members of Best Buddies strengthen their friendships through a shared passion for hockey. “[I love] witnessing two people click as friends,” Quinn said. “It is like watching magic or seeing someone truly come to life. The joy from seeing others feel joy is extremely powerful.”

After graduating 19 years ago, alumna Kelly Quinn will return March 7 as a guest speaker for Day of Service. As State Director for Missouri for Best Buddies International, Quinn is one of the four speakers freshmen have the opportunity to learn from.

“I am planning to talk about the sense of belonging and how each of us need authentic human interaction to be our best selves. That is what Best Buddies helps foster within each community. The great thing about Best Buddies is the conversation will lead the content we cover,” Quinn said.

Being involved with Best Buddies allows Quinn to pursue her passion for helping people to discover their own purpose and connecting with people.

“[Best Buddies] also is focused on serving people with disabilities and [it] teaches you how to be more accepting, understanding and engaged with people who are different than you. There is nothing else quite like it,” Quinn said.

Quinn sees the growth of the Friendship Program, over the past three years, as her greatest accomplishment since working with Best Buddies. The Friendship Program aids in building friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“When I started, there were three Friendship Chapters in the whole state. Today, there are 30 and counting, led by young volunteers from middle school to college, all who are sharing the mission and creating positive and sustainable change for diversity and inclusion in their communities,” Quinn said.

Quinn wants to continue to grow within elementary, middle school, high school and college communities while also helping adults with their own program.

“There is a great need for adult friendships, so the Community Citizens Program is a top priority. There is also an untapped pool of prospective employees who have disabilities and due to social barriers; they are often overlooked or miss out on opportunities to pursue a career opportunity that sparks a passion for them. In 2020 we are committed to having a Jobs Program in Missouri and help partner employers with qualified candidates to do the job,” Quinn said.

Despite the struggles of being a new organization, Quinn has many goals for the future of Best Buddies. Her goals are broken down into Mission Pillars: Friendship, Jobs, Leadership Development and Living.

“Leadership Development is all about helping people find their voice (hypothetically & literally speaking) to advocate for themselves, others and Best Buddies,” Quinn said. “Living is a very new mission pillar and the goal in Missouri is to help the community at large learn how to embrace fellow citizens with disabilities as valued members of society.”

As State Director of Best Buddies for Missouri, Quinn hopes to give back to the West Community and share opportunities to create positive change.

“There is so much more to life than being a good student academically. Learning more about how to tap into your natural talents and share your natural passions is vital to feeling happy and valued,” Quinn said. “It is important that this is reinforced through Best Buddies and that the students are exposed to a wide variety of organizations, topics and resources. At the end of the day, if something moves you and brings you joy, then you should do it.”