Lisa Buchanan and Ruth Godding were paired through the Best Buddies program in the '90s — and they've been inseparable ever since
Time flies when you’re having fun with friends — just ask Lisa Buchanan and Ruth Godding.
Buchanan, 40, was a college student when she was paired with Godding, 59, who has intellectual disabilities, through Best Buddies International, a nonprofit organization working to end “social, physical and economic isolation” among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The two met when Buchanan was president of the Best Buddies chapter at Marymount University in Virginia 20 years ago. They’ve remained close ever since.
“We hit it off right away. We started talking on the phone,” Buchanan, a school teacher, tells PEOPLE while reflecting on their connection for National Friendship Day, which falls on Sunday, Aug. 4. “We just did all the on-campus things through college, like Halloweenfest and Christmas parties. Then when I graduated I wasn’t technically in Best Buddies anymore, but I still kept in touch with Ruth.”
Godding and Buchanan’s friendship has seen many milestones over the years, including Buchanan’s wedding and the birth of her children, 13-year-old twins (a boy and girl).
“They were very cute babies!” Godding, who works for the government, tells PEOPLE. “I was very surprised they were twins. Wow! There were two babies! I wasn’t expecting that one.”
As Buchanan began her journey into parenthood, she and Godding became even closer, often spending quality time with each other’s families. The friends even went on double dates, Buchanan says.
Before they knew it, two decades had passed, and Buchanan’s parents suggested she reach out to Best Buddies again to share the story of their lasting friendship.
With that, she wrote an email to an organization, highlighting what she called a “Best Buddies success story.” The letter caught the attention of Anthony Shriver, who founded the organization in 1989.
“Ruth and Lisa’s 20-year friendship is really what Best Buddies is all about. It’s truly a testament to the power of friendship and inclusion,” Shriver tells PEOPLE in a statement. “Genuine one-to-one friendships like this change lives, and it’s why we’ve spent the last 30 years working to connect people who may not normally be friends and changing the way people think about individuals with special abilities — everyone should have a best buddy.”
Now, on National Friendship Day, Buchanan says her involvement with the organization and friendship with Godding are even more meaningful as she cares for her son, who has autism.
“As a mom of a little guy with autism, he has so much to offer and that’s what I love about Best Buddies — it shows that everyone has value to offer,” Buchanan says. “He’s not in Best Buddies yet, but I definitely do want to get him involved.”
“That’s what I would want for him,” she adds, “that same experience.”