Best Buddies Challenge

The Best Buddies Challenge is breaking barriers and building friendships

“Friendship moves mountains.” It is by this tenet that Anthony Kennedy Shriver founded an internationally renowned organization committed to positivity, inclusivity and, indeed, friendship. Best Buddies has grown from its genesis at Georgetown University in 1989 to an engagement program dedicated to building positive connections, sponsoring employment opportunities and supporting leadership programs for intellectually challenged individuals across the globe.

“When you go into a workplace and see one of our participants getting full benefits, being part of a team and feeling like they count—knowing that person’s life is completely transformed because of our hard work is really rewarding and makes you feel like your life matters,” says Shriver. “That’s the power of Best Buddies.”

Shriver is no stranger to individuals with special talents. His aunt, Rosemary Kennedy, had profound intellectual disabilities, and his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics. “I was around this community for a long time through family and my mother’s work, and I learned a lot from having a relationship with someone with special abilities,” he says. “I thought sharing that opportunity and experience with other college kids while I was at Georgetown would be meaningful for them and for the people with special abilities.” Best Buddies started with 52 students at Georgetown. Today, the organization impacts over a million people with and without intellectual disabilities, with more than 2,500 chapters worldwide.

On Cape Cod, supporting Best Buddies is easy, fun and rewarding for everyone involved. Every summer, some 1,500 cyclists convene in Boston for Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port, where they can choose to bike 20, 50 or 100 miles—with the longer ride ending in Hyannis Port. The event is supported by pro football players like Tom Brady and Julian Edelman, cyclists like Christian Vande Velde and George Hincapie, as well as other big names like Food Network star Guy Fieri, who hosts a cooking festival for the event. “I used to ride with my mother a lot on tandem bikes,” explains Shriver. “Sometimes she had illnesses, so I could pull her along, and I thought the concept of a tandem was great for buddy pairs. Then it grew beyond tandem bikes to individual cycling.”

If cycling isn’t appealing, participants have the option to run or walk a 5K at Craigville Beach, led by Olympian Carl Lewis, and there’s a celebration after the main events that includes even more celebrity guests, a concert on the beach, fun events and more. And since no Cape Cod celebration is quite complete without a lobster bake, that’s another highlight.

Kellie Howard was introduced to Best Buddies at the University of South Florida, and has been a dedicated and passionate advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities ever since. “When I heard about the mission and the cause, I fell in love with it, and I’ve been dedicated since 2009,” she says. Today, Howard sits on the Best Buddies International Board of Directors and is a trained Buddy Ambassador, among other things.