Our History


Over the past 50+ years, our society has made great strides towards inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Below is a timeline that highlights key historical moments in the advancement of this movement and the continued growth of Best Buddies.


Eunice Kennedy Shriver writes an article for the Saturday Evening Post based on her family’s own experience, entitled “Hope for Retarded Children”, which spurred the fight against a widely misunderstood affliction.


Mental Retardation and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act, originally Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act) which authorized federal grants for construction of public/ nonprofit community health centers, signed into law by President John F. Kennedy.


Anthony Kennedy Shriver founded the original Best Buddies Chapter at Georgetown University.


The iconic Best Buddies logo that features two individuals in an embrace was donated to Best Buddies in the late 1980s from legendary pop-artist, Keith Haring.


Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization on January 19, 1989, Best Buddies® becomes America’s first national, unified, social, and recreational program for people with intellectual disabilities.


The Best Buddies Fine Art Collection is developed, featuring masterpieces by Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg.


Launch of Best Buddies Citizens, with the goal of pairing adults with intellectual disabilities with their non-disabled working peers.


Best Buddies Jobs, a supported employment program targeting high-paying, corporate jobs for people with intellectual disabilities, launches in Florida, California and Massachusetts.


Best Buddies High Schools is established with the goal of pairing special education students in one-to-one friendships with high school volunteers.


Best Buddies Middle Schools pilot program is launched, reaching a younger age group with the hope that inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities will have a lasting effect on societal norms for the next generation.


e-Buddies® is launched as a cutting-edge e-mail friendship program.


Best Buddies holds the inaugural Best Buddies Challenge in Hyannis Port.


For the first time, Best Buddies has participants in all 50 states and on six continents.


Best Buddies Friendship Walks are established.


For the first time, Best Buddies has programs in 50 countries around the world.


The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act, which authorized federal funds for Best Buddies, passed the U.S. House of Representatives on May 19, 2010.


Best Buddies Ambassadors becomes Best Buddies’ seventh formal program.


Best Buddies Promoters officially launches as the eighth program for the 2012-2013 school year. It becomes the first Best Buddies program open to elementary schools.


Best Buddies celebrates its 25th anniversary.


Best Buddies launches the I’m In To Hire campaign to promote the business benefits of hiring people with IDD.


In October 2015 A&E Network partnered with Best Buddies and premiered a new docu-series, Born This Way, which chronicles the lives of seven young-adults with Down syndrome, several of whom are Best Buddies participants.


Best Buddies Global Ambassador Guy Fieri hosts the inaugural Guy Cooking with Best Buddies Celebrity Chef Food & Wine Festival at Harvard Stadium as part of the Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port.


The Best Buddies Alumni Association officially launches with the focus of developing a lifelong friendship between Best Buddies and its Alumni, which includes all former volunteers, students, staff and board members.


In May 2017, Best Buddies hosts the inaugural Mother’s Day Brunch in Malibu, CA, with Global Ambassador Cindy Crawford and her daughter, Kaia Gerber.


In April 2018, Best Buddies Global Ambassador Tom Brady travels to Qatar to launch integrated employment initiative in partnership with the country’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, Qatar Museums and Best Buddies Qatar participants.


In January 2019, Best Buddies celebrates 30 years of creating opportunities for inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


2019: In January 2019, Best Buddies elevates its mission to meet the significant need for inclusion by establishing Best Buddies Living, a residential living experience for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their peers. This new program represents the organization’s newest and fourth key mission pillar, Inclusive Living.