Buddy Up For Life Helps Individuals with Down Syndrome Across the US - Innovate New Albany | New Albany, Ohio

Buddy Up For Life Helps Individuals with Down Syndrome Across the US

Buddy Up for Life, Inc. impacts lives by providing adaptive programming specifically designed for individuals with Down syndrome.

Beth Gibson, Founder and Executive Director of Buddy Up for Life, Inc., has been a resident of New Albany since 1997. After spending decades in the retail industry, Beth formed the non-profit over 13 years ago and has been headquartered in Innovate New Albany since 2018.

Buddy Up for Life began with Beth, her son Will (then 3 ½ years old) and one determined tennis coach. They created Buddy Up Tennis, a weekly high-energy tennis and fitness program for children and adults with Down syndrome. The goal was to create brave Athletes on the court with the self-worth and confidence to conquer their challenges and achieve their fullest potential off of the courts. Buddy Up Tennis has since become a nationally recognized program serving over 550 individuals with Down syndrome (known as Athletes), over 650 volunteers (known as Buddies) and over 100 Coaches across 25 cities across the country.

Individuals with Down syndrome are born with low muscle tone and at greater risks for obesity which is correlated precursors of strokes, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Beth saw the need for Will to live a healthy lifestyle in a social and fun environment to tackle these issues head on. To this end, Buddy Up Fitness was born in 2017 to provide an additional fitness opportunity. The Buddy Up Fitness program is an ongoing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class combining cardiovascular and strength training elements focusing on building core strength. Currently, the program has expanded to 6 cities and continues to receive requests to expand.

Since their formation in 2008, the team has steadily expanded their reach and efforts to enrich lives by creating additional programming such as a Summer Camp. With the many trials in 2020, the team shifted their way of operating and focused on staying relevant by innovating creative, meaningful programming for their Athletes and Buddies. They rebranded from Buddy Up Tennis, Inc. to Buddy Up for Life, Inc. and reorganized their efforts into three Pillars of Impact: promote greater Health and Wellness, foster meaningful Friendships and cultivate increased Independence.

In addition to the challenges of Covid, research states that individuals with Down syndrome have smaller social circles consisting of acquaintances rather than close friends where this lack of social integration can increase risks of anxiety or depression. Buddy Up for Life created a program, Buddy Up Connections, to connect an Athlete with a Buddy to create a friendship, enhance social skills, learn from each other, and simply have fun. During the past year and a half, over 300 individuals connected 1:1 each week engaging in a variety of themed activities resulting in lasting friendships.

Friends do make life better yet, another important aspect to creating happiness is living life with purpose and meaning. Unfortunately, many individuals with disabilities do not live independently and are unemployed even though the majority have graduated from high school. With this in mind, Beth and team have created Buddy Up Life skills which are classes that seek to go beyond the skills taught in school and teach practical skills, delivered by field experts. For example, Communication for Life is led by a Speech language Pathologist and enables Athletes to develop social skills necessary to independently interact in professional and personal settings. Additional classes include Cooking for Life, Finance for Life, Technology for Life, and Safety for Life.

The goal of Buddy Up for Life is to redefine the social, economic, psychological, and physical expectations set for those who live with Down syndrome by providing their Athletes the tools and mindset to live their life to the fullest- that’s why they do what they do. If you would like to learn more about Buddy Up For Life, Inc. and how you can make an impact, please visit their website at BuddyUpforLife.org or email Beth at Beth@BUforLife.org.

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