e-Buddies is an e-mail pen pal program that pairs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in one-to-one e-mail friendships with peer volunteers who do not have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Participants are matched based on age, gender and common interests. e-Buddies agree to e-mail each other at least once a week for one calendar year.
Computers are an integral part of society and by joining e-Buddies, participants can develop the skills necessary to become technology-literate and therefore, able to compete for higher-level employment and to communicate using a variety of sources. e-Buddies is also a safe way to make a new friend and connect with someone across the country.
e-Buddies provides opportunities for computer literacy, while also forming a new friendship. Many people with IDD have fewer chances for social interactions after they leave school. The Internet can become the main way these individuals keep in touch with family and friends. By joining e-Buddies and becoming comfortable with communicating online, participants are more equipped to stay social in the future.
e-Buddies started in 1999 in an effort to involve more Best Buddies participants and Special Olympic athletes in the online community. As a pilot e-Buddies buddy pair, Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals, and Best Buddies participant Ken Holden, were matched in an e-mail friendship. The friendship was immediately successful and the e-Buddies program was launched. Ted and Ken are currently still matched and they e-mail each other daily.