'Best Buddies' volunteer earns praise

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - What would you do without a best friend? It's even more difficult for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

Lexi King, a junior at Indiana University, as a best buddy to Lyle Freeman. They're beginning a third year together in the Best Buddies program

"She goes out of her way to make me feel like I'm wanted as her friend, and she makes me feel like I'm human," Freeman said.

King and Freeman are among 46 Best Buddies paris in the IU chapter of Best Buddies International.

Anthony Shriver started the organization while he was a college student in 1989. It has since grown to 1,700 chapters in all 50 states and in 50 countries.

The volunteer organization provides friendship, leadership development and employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The relationship between King and Freeman is clearly a two-way street. Freeman lives by himself in Bloomington and works at a local restaurant.

But he goes above and beyond when it comes to his work at Best Buddies, as an advocate for not only himself, but for everyone with an intellectual or developmental disability.

"He's extremely invested in Best Buddies, absolutely," said Laura Wendling, Best Buddies program manager.

Freeman volunteers countless hours in support of the IU chapter.

"I'm a friendship monitor, like I also help out with other events," Freeman said. "I go to events 30 minutes to an hour early to help set up."

Freeman also serves on the young leaders council and is a member of the state advisory board.

On the day Freeman was presented with a Jefferson Award, he was supported by a room full of best buddies, but one best buddy is all it takes to make a positive change in someone's life.

Freeman has been a recipient of that, thanks to King.

"She's an amazing friend. She changed my life, basically," he said.

"Right back at you," King said.

More: Nominate a volunteer for a Jefferson Award 
More: Jefferson Award stories

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