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Best Buddies Comes Along For the Ride

08/09/2012 03:32 pm ET | Updated Oct 09, 2012

Anthony Kennedy Shriver knows how to get what he asks for. Youngest scion of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver (founders of the Special Olympics and the Peace Corps, respectively) since 1989 this Shriver has turned his considerable influence to establish Best Buddies, an international nonprofit which offers one-to-one friendship, job training, and leadership skills to people with IDD (intellectual and developmental disabilities). Shriver recently gathered a high-profile group of similarly stalwart supporters of the Best Buddies Challenge, the annual bike/run/walk sojurn from Carmel to Hearst Castle which this year is scheduled for September 8. Mayor Ed Lee, former mayor Willie Brown, Chief of Protocol Charlotte Shultz and "Eye on the Bay" host Liam Mayclem all turned out to encourage participation in the bike ride/run/walk, which can be as strenuous as 100 miles or simplified to 5K for the run/walk led by Olympian Carl Lewis.

Participants raise money for their teams which traverse the Pacific Coast Highway and end up at the Hearst Ranch in San Simeon, where massages, goodie bags, BBQ and a concert by Blues Traveler await. The event is the largest one-day fundraiser conducted by Best Buddies; in nine years, the Challenge has raised over $35 million dollars through healthy competition between fundraising teams, the largest led by Shriver's equally persuasive sister Maria Shriver.

Anthony related how the Best Buddies challenge began with a cold call to with a big request. "Imagine if someone called you out of the blue and said, 'We'd like you to host a party in your yard; it will include 1400 hot, hungry people, and involve two weeks of complicated set-up..." said Shriver, marveling that Steve Hearst, who welcomes the weary travelers to Hearst Ranch at the end of their adventure, not only agreed but has become deeply involved with the program.

But both Hearst and Shriver were eager to deflect the deference onto the Best Buddies mission which produces success stories like John Hammond, who has IDD and attends University of San Francisco, volunteers for political campaigns, and works at the batting cage at Giants Stadium. Hammond spoke about the way the program has enriched his life, and how eager he is to share his story through the Best Buddies Ambassador program.

Mayor Lee also reiterated Shriver's theme of inclusiveness, affirming his position as leader of the City "for everyone" and introducing Carmelite Buenaventura, a program participant who works as a clerk in the City Budget Office, one of the first people with developmental disabilities to be hired by a California mayor. But the most compelling testimonial of the evening belonged to Charlotte Shultz, who quoted her "hardworking secretary," her husband George Shultz, as she addressed Shriver. "George says your parents Eunice and Sargent were two of the greatest volunteers of the twentieth century," she wistfully asserted. "Anthony, I know they would be proud of you and what you have done to establish and grow Best Buddies into such a remarkable program. And for that, Anthony, you are one of OUR best buddies." Anthony Shriver can't ask for a better endorsement than that.

Best Buddies Fundraiser at Matrix Fillmore

To view more images from this event, visit SFWire