Today, we introduce Anneliese Barron, the state director of the Tennessee chapter of Best Buddies, a nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for friendship, employment and leadership for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Anneliese learned about Best Buddies in 2007, after catching an NBC Sports segment about the Best Buddies Challenge. Having a son born with Down syndrome, Anneliese was inspired to launch major fundraising efforts to open a chapter of Best Buddies in Tennessee. Her dreams came to fruition in January 2012, and since then, Best Buddies Tennessee continues to grow and provide numerous individuals with invaluable relationships. Welcome today’s FACE of Nashville, Anneliese Barron.
What brought you to Nashville?
My husband. I’m from Montreal. We dated long distance. When we got engaged, I moved to Nashville. He never would have survived the Canadian winters. Plus, he doesn’t speak a word of French!
How long have you lived here?
I’ve been in Nashville for 11 years and absolutely love it. I don’t ever plan on leaving!
How did you get involved with Best Buddies?
My son, Matthew, was born with Down syndrome. I was afraid he wouldn’t have any friends growing up because of his disability … that he would be ignored, excluded or bullied. I was also scared that my daughters would be teased for having a brother who is “different.” So after learning about the mission of Best Buddies, I spearheaded a $200,000 fundraising effort to establish a state chapter in Tennessee. That was in 2010, and I’ll be involved for life! I strongly believe that Best Buddies opens people’s eyes and changes the way our community sees those with intellectual disabilities. I want to create a social culture that is accepting and inclusive of everyone, regardless of their abilities.
What do you love most about working at Best Buddies?
It’s so hard to pick one thing; I love it all. But I would have to say witnessing the pure friendships between our buddies and peer buddies is at the very top of the list.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
Who was an early mentor to you?
I never really had a mentor, but I was deeply inspired by a piece written by Emily Perl Kingsley called “Welcome to Holland.” It compares the experience of finding out your child has a disability to taking a trip to Italy that is unexpectedly rerouted to Holland — if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.
What is the most challenging part of your career?
Getting to everything that I want to do. Like most people in nonprofits, I wear many hats, which I truly enjoy, but it’s nearly impossible to fit everything in. There aren’t enough hours in the day! It’s always a struggle for me to be OK with the fact that I can’t do it all.
What is your favorite way to relax and unwind?
Go for a long run outside. Or the complete opposite: sit on the couch with my family, snuggle under a big blanket and watch TV.
Would you call yourself a cat or dog person?
Dog. I’m allergic to cats.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
Anywhere with a beach!
What would be included in travel essentials?
I don’t have any “must haves” other than the basics, like toothbrush, toothpaste and shampoo. I’m not a very organized traveler. I just throw things in a suitcase at the last minute and hope for the best!
Do you have a favorite Nashville restaurant?
I haven’t settled on a favorite since F. Scott’s closed, but right now I’m obsessed with the Tres Tacos at Sopapilla’s.
What songs are currently at the top of your playlist?
My kids have hijacked my playlist, so the Frozen soundtrack is at the top, along with various songs sung by Disney stars.
Thank you, Anneliese, for sharing a bit of yourself with our readers today. To learn more about Best Buddies and how you can get involved, visit bestbuddiestennessee.org.
And thank you to Ashley Hylbert for the fantastic photographs in today’s article. See more of her work at ashleyhylbert.com.