Zach Wiles of Theta Chapter experiences Best Buddies Leadership Conference

Best Buddies

The fraternity also had five students in attendance as president of their local chapters of Best Buddies. These presidents came from the Mu (Duke), Alpha Zeta (Oregon), Delta Delta (Truman State), Theta Lambda (Missouri State), and Iota Psi (Boise State) Chapter. Zach Wiles, the student representative for The Ability Experience, also was in attendance.

Zach is a part of the Theta Chapter (Cincinnati) and currently his campus does not have a Best Buddies chapter in place. His goal is get one established with the help of Nick Breaux at The Ability Experience and Michael Pearson of Best Buddies. This fall, Zach and the rest of the service committee will set forth and make a Best Buddies chapter at the University of Cincinnati possible. The Best Buddies Leadership Conference was a good start to really see what the organization really does and how it links perfectly up with The Ability Experience.

Going into the conference Zach had a general idea of what Best Buddies was; working to create opportunities for one to one friendships. He did not, however, know about the other awesome things Best Buddies is involved in. Best Buddies also helps to assist individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to find employment and provide leadership development to individuals with IDD. Zach had the opportunity at the conference to listen to several success stories from people with IDD in front of crowds of over 3,000 people. These stories were mind blowing and illustrated how obstacles were overcome to live on their own, work at the same company for over 20 years, and how they blossomed to lead their own lives surrounded by their friends and buddies.


Zach assisted Director of Expansion James Maloney and Director of Chapter Services Nick Breaux in recruitment workshops during his time at the conference. He also had the opportunity to connect with a few well known buddies at the conference including David DeSanctis, Marlana VanHoose and Lauren Potter. Lauren Potter, the star from Glee, was a local celebrity at the conference and when Zach sat next to her he couldn’t hold back his smile due to her overwhelming joy.

At the conference there were so many great displays of people of all abilities overcoming obstacles in their lives to further their knowledge, leadership, and friendships. From stories of how they became a movie star to stories of how they travel an hour to work via public transportation for the past 20 years without ever being late, everyone was treated to some truly inspiring success stories. All of these success stories have common themes; people in the community working together to create experiences between the IDD community and those without IDD to promote friendships and the inclusion of people of all abilities.

Zach’s advice for Pi Kappa Phi chapters looking to get involved is to first see if their campus has an already established Best Buddies program. If it does, great, the difficult part is done. You just need to reach out to the president and ask them how you can be involved. This may be helping to co-sponsor a dance or outing or to put some Pi Kappa Phi members in position to form one-on-one friendships.

If your campus does not already have a Best Buddies you should go online to and find your state and then your director of expansion. They will be able to answer your questions about how to get the ball rolling. You can also contact Nick Breaux with any questions.