Mason A. Schmutz (’08) stands at the foul line, carefully holding his blue bowling ball, which matches the blue in his striped sweater. As he concentrates, Dustin Forsyth massages his shoulders.
The two step back and Schmutz makes his approach, then releases the ball, which spins to the right before curving back to the center of the lane and hurtling into the pins. Strike. Forsyth and Schmutz high-five as they switch places and Forsyth goes up for a turn with his bright orange ball, which matches his oxford shirt.
“He is so good,” Schmutz says, nodding toward Forsyth, who had been practicing his form with an imaginary bowling ball in the empty lanes when it wasn’t his turn. Forsyth’s practice pays off—the ball spins beautifully down the lane, swerving just like Schmutz’s did. Another strike. “Yes!” Forsyth exclaims, immediately turning to Schmutz. “Did you see that?!” Schmutz was already out of his seat, yelling, “Yeah!”
Forsyth and Schmutz met through the BYU chapter of the Best Buddies program—the largest chapter run by the international organization—which pairs high school and college students with friends who have intellectual disabilities. Schmutz, a senior majoring in economics, and Forsyth, who has Down syndrome, have been friends for three years now.
The program asks that participants spend time together once a month and talk on the phone once a week; Forsyth and Schmutz hang out weekly and talk on the phone almost every day. Because Forsyth and Schmutz’s friendship represents the goals the organization has for its participants, Best Buddies named them Utah’s Buddy Pair of the Year for 2007.
The first time the assigned pair met, Schmutz invited Forsyth out to dinner and a movie. “I was a little apprehensive about how he would receive me,” recalls Schmutz. “But I knocked on the door, and as soon as Dustin saw me, he said my name and gave me a big hug. That’s just how Dustin is—he’s your buddy right off the bat.”
Forsyth wasn’t nervous at all. “Before I met Mason, I knew Mason inside,” says Forsyth. “I like his spirit. I like him being my friend and my brother.” And brothers they are—both are from the Orem, Utah, area and have become a part of each other’s families.
“Every birthday, he’s there,” says Schmutz. “He comes to Sunday dinners with the family.” Forsyth was even the best man at Schmutz’s wedding, though he almost beat Schmutz to the punch. Forsyth put the moves on Schmutz’s future wife, Ashley Foulger (’08), before Schmutz did. The trio saw a movie before Foulger and Schmutz began dating. By the movie’s end, Forsyth convinced Foulger to hold his hand by telling her that Schmutz wanted her to. Schmutz held her hand 10 months later.
But along with sharing the good times, Forsyth and Schmutz have grieved over the heartrending ones. Since the death of Forsyth’s father two years ago, Schmutz has offered Forsyth much-needed support. “Mason has just stepped in and been fantastic with Dustin,” says Forsyth’s sister, Alisha Heath, holding back tears, “to fill the void of that male role model [Dustin] had in my dad.”
Being with each other through life’s major events has helped Forsyth and Schmutz love each other as they are. “I can be myself around him,” says Schmutz. “I can joke around and be a dork—and he loves it.”
“You are not a dork,” says Forsyth, shaking his head.
And Schmutz just smiles, “That’s what I love about the guy—he’s always building me up.”