'Best Buddies' program provides friendship through pandemic: 'He brightens our day'

Best Buddies International matches people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a friend.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- When 20-year-old Matthew Francis sees his buddy, Steve Grant, his smile lights up.

"Steve is my best friend," said Matthew, who was born with a rare genetic disorder. After he graduated high school, his mom was looking for programs to keep him active.

"He's the happiest kid on earth because he's always happy. He brightens our day, he brightens other people's days," said Matthew's mother, Judith.

She learned about Best Buddies International -- a program that matches people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a friend. Steve volunteers there.

"From the first time we met, we kind of just hit it off, right?" Steve said to Matthew.

"I called you on the iPad!" Matthew recalled. "Yeah, you called me on the iPad," said Steve.

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When Matthew and Steve first met, the pandemic was just beginning and the world was going into lockdown. As people became more isolated, the two were able to give each other something so valuable: friendship.

The pair of friends are planning their next adventure. They've gone on trips to the Poconos, to the Jersey shore, and Matthew is even helping Steve rehab his new house.

"What's your favorite thing about construction?" Steve asked Matthew.

"Destruction!" Matthew said.

"Destruction. So he likes the demo days," Steve said laughing.

In a time so dark, Matthew and Steve's friendship is giving everyone around them hope.

"Makes me very happy. He does a lot for Matthew, he's a special person," said Judith.

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