When Ann Finlen moved to Auburn from Birmingham, she worried she wouldn’t be able to find much to do in her new city, but today, Finlen’s calendar is constantly full thanks to Best Buddies at Auburn.
Finlen has been a member of Best Buddies for nine years, and she’s been busy ever since.
At 52 years old, Finlen is young at heart and finds herself juggling Best Buddies events with the many other things she is involved with. She’s made a number of friends from Best Buddies and is so grateful for programs like it.
Finlen’s guardians are her sister and brother-in-law, Bridget and J.R. Smith.
“She’s really my guardian angel,” Finlen said of Bridgett Smith.
Her sister said they never thought there would be so many opportunities for Finlen in Auburn, but from Finlen’s first year here, she was involved with Best Buddies.
“It’s just been a God send,” Smith said.
Finlen raved about her current buddy and said she’s great.
“Her buddies have always been so close to the family,” Smith said. “We always have them over. In nine years, she’s had four or five buddies.”
Most of the time, Finlen will go out to eat with her buddy and just hang out, but it’s the connection she makes with each of her buddies that lasts a lifetime.
Finlen was in one of her previous buddies’ weddings and attended another one’s. The connection between buddies runs deeper than just friends – it turns into family.
Smith said that Best Buddies, as well as a therapeutic program, ran by Auburn’s parks and recreation, helped Finlen continue to be her social self after moving away from Birmingham, where she participated in Special Olympics.
With Best Buddies, Finlen has been involved with holiday parties and events with the organization, one of her favorites being Greek Sing.
“It’s so emotional,” Bridget Smith said. “Everyone stands and gives them a standing ovation. It’s so great.”
Finlen has also traveled to the national Best Buddies convention, even becoming a spokesperson for the program and traveling to different schools to speak about Best Buddies.
Finlen said she loves being involved with the University still. She retired from her job working in Foy Hall a few years ago, and everyone threw her a surprise party.
It’s because of the kindness of the Auburn Family that programs like Best Buddies are made.
“We have incredible leadership here,” Bridget Smith said. “There’s so much here, and it’s so amazing.”
Best Buddies has brought Finlen so many things, she said, but there’s one thing she can’t get enough of.
“A lot of love,” Finlen said.
Smith said she is always amazed at how much time college students put into Best Buddies and their friendships with the special needs community.
“They’re all so amazing,” Bridget Smith said. “I don’t know how they do it, but they dedicate so much time to [the buddies]. It’s just the greatest program ever.”