March 15, 2004 - 2 the advocacte: Anthony Shriver is founder of "Best Buddies"

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By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - 4:24 pm: Edit Post

Anthony Shriver is founder of "Best Buddies"

Anthony Shriver is founder of "Best Buddies"

Best Buddies

Program brings together students, intellectually challenged

Advocate staff writer

Anthony Shriver, founder and CEO of Best Buddies International, left, checks the score on a basketball game with Hardy Wood, center, and Kevin Carlisle.
Someone asked Anthony Shriver if he was on a tour of Best Buddies International chapters.
Advocate staff photo by John H. Williams

Shriver balanced a ball on his fingertips before tossing the ball into a net in the game room at Circle Bowl.

"On tour?" he smiled. "My life is a tour."

Shriver is the 38-year-old son of Eunice Shriver, founder of Special Olympics, and Sargent Shriver, organizer and first director of the Peace Corps.

In 1987, as a student at Georgetown University, Anthony Shriver started Best Buddies. The idea was to pair college students with mentally retarded people for social outings.

"The big thing is for people who are intellectually disabled to have a presence in the community," Shriver said. "They put things in perspective with their patience, sensitivity and joy of life."

The term "intellectually disabled" includes "slow learners, people with Down syndrome, autism, any kind of slow development," said LSU pre-med student Jeffrey Merlin, 21.

Merlin and his buddy, 42-year-old John Dean, were bowling one night with Best Buddies Louisiana. The outing coincided with Shriver's visit to Baton Rouge.

Though the organization has chapters in every state, Louisiana became only the 14th state with a Best Buddies office last summer. LSU students started a chapter in 2001. The state office is at 365 N. 4th St.
High school chapters in Baton Rouge include Bishop Sullivan, Redemptorist, Tara, Woodlawn, Lee and Baton Rouge Magnet high schools. There is a middle school chapter at Glasgow.

Merlin, who has a retarded cousin, heard about Best Buddies when LSU's chapter president spoke to Alpha Epsilon Delta two years ago. AED is a pre-med honors society.

"She said they needed more male Best Buddies," Merlin said. "So, I joined."

Merlin and Dean talk by telephone at 8:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.

"I try to see him every two weeks -- movies, bowling -- we watch sports on television," Merlin said.

"He's pretty independent. He has brothers and sisters in town."

Dean rides a bicycle to work at a fast-food restaurant on Sherwood Forest Boulevard.

Advocate staff photo by John H. Williams
From left, Best Buddies Hardy Wood and Kevin Carlisle visit with Amy Fruge and Neil Ferrari in front of LSU's Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Dean enjoys his association with Merlin and Best Buddies.

"I like being with him," Dean said. "And going out and doing things."

"I sometimes forget John is intellectually disabled," Merlin said. "I talk to him in a normal way, and he understands. When I leave LSU, I'll have to find him another buddy. I'm not looking forward to it."

The college buddies assume "a tremendous amount of responsibility," said Dr. Elmo Dean, John's brother.

"When people are willing to step up and do something like this, it means something," Dean said. "It gives John the ability to go do things because it's one on one."

Kevin Carlisle, 20, another LSU pre-med student, has been Hardy Wood's best buddy for eight months.

"When I was in high school, I'd visit people in nursing homes," Carlisle said. "You'd go to make their day and they'd end up making yours."

Wood is 50. The 30-year difference in their ages poses no barrier to friendship, Carlisle said.

"It's like any other friendship," he said. "He calls me. I call him. We hang out."

Wood works at a hotel setting up rooms for conferences.

"It was hard for me to do things with my last buddy," Carlisle said. "I got out of class at 4. He went to bed at 7. So, it was hard for us to get together."

Wood stays up late.

"He's called me at 10 p.m.," Carlisle said.

"To talk about sports," Wood said.

"He's an LSU fanatic," Carlisle said. "He knows more about LSU sports than I do."

LaShondra Hilliard, 22, of Destrehan, an LSU sociology student, was on her third outing with Linzi Gomez, 19, of Sunshine.

The Gomez family introduced Hilliard to rabbit and squirrel at a cookout.

"She's the one who's giving me different ideas," Hilliard said.

Laura Nixon, 18, of Lake Charles, an education major at LSU, is Ashley Reno's buddy. Reno is 25, the same age as Nixon's mentally handicapped sister.

"They get left behind," Nixon said. "People forget they're regular people. They're like us. They like movies, shopping and bowling."

The future of intellectually disabled brothers and sisters is something their families talk about, Nixon said.

"I have a brother who's 30. It won't be a problem," she said.

Big Buddies has chapters on 900 middle school, high school and college campuses in the United States and Canada. The organization is in 20 countries, Shriver said.

Comedian Michael Aronin will be featured at "An Evening With Friends," a fund-raiser/public awareness event for Best Buddies Louisiana, at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mickey's Varsity Shop, 340 Florida St.

Aronin, born with cerebral palsy, travels the country using his wit to entertain, instruct and motivate. He has performed at such comedy clubs at The Comedy Store in Hollywood and The Improv in Washington, D.C.

The event will also include wine tasting, hors d'oeuvres, a silent auction and a talk by David Quilleon, program director for Best Buddies International who has two siblings with intellectual disabilities.

Tickets are $15 with all proceeds going to assist the programs of Best Buddies Louisiana. For more information, call 225-383-7899. Or go to the following Web sites, or

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Story Source: 2 the advocacte

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By Angel Lima ( - on Thursday, August 25, 2005 - 8:24 am: Edit Post

Foremost, what a marvel the Peace Corps "hope" is, though Homer Simpson was granted honorary membership, its message remains untarnished :)

I think all you volunteers are doing a fantastic job! Kudos to each and everyone of you. Thank you for taking the time to educate and nourish the underdog, and giving back a little of the gargantuan slices we take from our planet. I hope your experiences mold you all into better people and our world follows suit :)
I am looking for a John Dean, that was assigned to Western Samoa in the late 1960's - early 70s. You perhaps stayed with my grandparents. I would be most interested to speak with you on your experiences in Samoa and afterwards if it is of no trouble to you. My dad was thrilled when I asked him about you (a complete accidental finding online), as he was but 8, so would my granddad though I have yet to tell him. Hope you are well and the blessings of God continue to fall upon you :)...

Angel Lima

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