Written by Crystal Schupbach
Senior Kaitlin Masuki has a long history of volunteering. All throughout high school she was involved in the National Honors Society and her local rotary club. Now Kaitlin volunteers and leads the Hillsdale Buddy GOAL program at the College. The program allows Hillsdale students to help support individuals with developmental disabilities like autism spectrum disorders through volunteering with SPARC, a ministry center that hosts art and music classes for participants.
While a lot of schools have programs for children with special needs, many communities lack resources for adults. This is a void that SPARC as well as the volunteers with the Hillsdale Buddy program seek to fill—and are doing so successfully.
Every Wednesday, the volunteers head to Hillside Lanes to share an afternoon hour of bowling with their “buddies.”
“Our buddies get really excited at things that most people might not always appreciate,” Kaitlin said. “It’s really amazing for them to get to know the college students and for the students to form friendships with them.”
Kaitlin shared that the purpose of the program is to provide individuals in need with the social interaction that everyone needs and deserves.
“Bowling is not anything strenuous, and it is just pure happiness,” volunteer Kiara Freeman said. “It’s so great to see one hour of their week completely transformed. Other people don’t always think of bowling as a fun activity, but we make it fun. Everyone is just happy to be there.”
Kaitlin said parents and grandparents in the community often call her, asking how they can get their own children involved. Specifically, one grandparent called asking if she could “sign up” her two grandsons. And Kaitlin said that’s just the thing: the program is open to anyone, and all are welcome—no sign up required. Every person involved adds something important to the program.
“I would consider some of our buddies to be my very good friends,” Kaitlin said. “Every emotion they share with us is real—it is not clouded by the fear of what people might think of them. They are present in each moment.”
Kiara shared a similar testament. “We get to know our friends personally, not just through the weekly bowling outings, but also with their families at our seasonal parties. We get to know them outside of a disability.”
Crystal Schupbach, ’20, is a Michigan native studying psychology and journalism. A few of her favorite things include dogs, summertime concerts, and garage sales–in that order.
Published in July 2019