Marissa Gebhard: The Buddy System

By Sally Anne Flecker | Fall 2015

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To understand why Marissa Gebhard (MNA ’10) loves being the club adviser for the Notre Dame Best Buddies Club, you don’t need to look much further than Lucas.

Best Buddies pairs Notre Dame students with adults in the community who have developmental disabilities. Lucas, who has been in the program for 16 years, lives independently with some support in a house several blocks from campus. He lives and breathes blue and gold and loves the opportunity to attend Notre Dame basketball games. He worked as a dishwasher at the University Club until its closing in 2007.

Change is hard for Lucas; he was heartbroken when his job ceased to be. “Best Buddies was a source of stabilization for Lucas,” says Gebhard. “It was one thing that was still consistent in his life. He still had a connection to Notre Dame.”

Gebhard, associate director of marketing and communications at the College of Science, has been club adviser since 1999. “I mentor and guide the students as they develop lasting friendships with people who can seem so different from themselves on the surface, but who are really just like them,” she says.

In fact, getting to know the students is another plus for her. “I love Notre Dame students. They’re so talented and committed to service. They keep you invigorated,” says Gebhard, who was recognized as club adviser of the year at Notre Dame in 2002. “Through this adviser role, I’m able to stay in touch with students after they graduate, and it really adds a great dimension to my life. I enjoy hearing about everything they’ve accomplished in their careers and lives.”