Richard Abrusci: My experience on Team Maria

September 23, 2013

America: the land of equal opportunity for all. Except, not.Take off the rose-colored glasses.  Life is hard.

It’s not fair, and it’s not equal. It’s even more of a challenge for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Definitely. A very, very, very bright light. A few weeks ago, I had a life-changing experience (cliché, admittedly, but true). I packed my bike atop my car, drove to Carmel, and joined an amazing group of individuals riding, crewing, supporting and advocating for those with IDD through a bicycle ride hosted by Best Buddies.  I had no experience with or knowledge of Best Buddies until I committed to riding on Team Maria. Like anyone looking to fundraise for a non-profit, I began doing research on Best Buddies, the work they do, the people they support and the lives they change. I was humbled, frustrated and motivated in a matter of minutes. You see, I didn’t realize we lived in a world where we afforded so little to those with disabilities. I also didn’t realize the amazing work happening through Best Buddies to concretely change that.

A few “Buddies” attended various events throughout the weekend and afforded me the opportunity to look at life through their eyes.

What a beautiful picture it is.  It shows a life where employers are happy to have them as part of their team; who see their brilliance; who see the benefit in having diversity as part of their workforce.  It paints scenery of everyone working together and living side by side. It radiates equality. You see, at the end of the day, I hate even having to categorize them as a “Buddy”.

They are human beings who hold the weight of the world on the shoulders just like you and I.  Martina Navratilova said it best, “Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you’re needed by someone.” They need us. We need them. So, I ask you; where do you fit into the picture? Can your world use some landscape change? The ride was more than just miles of beautiful coastline; it was a journey filled with hope, inspiration and empowerment. This, by far is the most auspicious event to redefine thinking towards those living with IDD.

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