More than a Best Buddy

Richie isn’t just a 52-year-old man with a severe cognitive learning disability.

Richie is a passionate New England Patriots fan, an avid swimmer, and a master at small talk. Richie navigates Boston like a subway operator, he frequents Cheers in Faneuil Hall, and he never jaywalks.

Richie is also one of my dearest friends.

I joined the Emerson College chapter of Best Buddies in 2012, looking for something outside the pattern of university life. I was excited (and nervous) about the chance to develop a relationship with someone with whom I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.

For the next three years, Richie was an integral part of my life. He was my Sunday tour guide, showing off his favorite Boston spots. Richie befriended my roommates and was our frequent guest at football games, video game sessions and late-afternoon pizza deliveries at my apartment.

A day with Richie wasn’t complete without a pleasant surprise that would solidify my appreciation for him. There was the time when Richie heard “Matter of Trust” by Billy Joel and performed a live sing-along. And the moment when Richie gifted me a Boston Strong t-shirt on the anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, where I’d been running in the race. Richie helped me appreciate the fleeting beauty of life.

When I was with Richie, my day-to-day worries and stress vanished, and I was able to focus on being his friend. Richie reminded me to take advantage of a sunny day, welcome a friendly conversation with a stranger, and just be myself.

I moved away from Boston after graduation and my interactions with Richie have settled into monthly phone calls and emails. I’m still reminded of him often, and I’ll always be there for him.

I know he’ll always be there for me.