Gary Delsohn: My experience on Team Maria

September 11, 2013

This was my third consecutive Best Buddies Hearst Castle Challenge and it gets better every year. I rode 100 miles and it’s a tough but spectacular ride. The whole weekend is a schlep―3 1/2 hours down by car from Sacramento and 3 1/2 hours back.

The bus ride from the Castle back to my vehicle at the end of that awesome post-ride party seemed interminable because I was so tired.

You have to e-mail and call people for weeks, asking them for money and reminding them that they promised to donate but hadn’t yet.

Then there is the preparation.  I trained all summer, finding nasty hills on weekends and pushing myself up them so I could make the ride and conquer those three punishing climbs along the way, especially those last two that come mockingly after you’ve already put in 70 miles and never seem to end when you think you’re done with them. This is one of the most gorgeous routes in the world, but anybody who says it’s not hard is lying. It is called a Challenge, after all. But every ounce of effort is worth it.  I can honestly say I have never been around anything so uplifting and gratifying as Best Buddies. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone tell me when I asked for money, “I love Best Buddies,” I’d have my fundraising target met for five more years. It’s so easy to get down or discouraged by the state of the world. So much negative news. War, terror, crime, the economy, feckless politicians.  If you follow politics or work around government, the pace of progress and compromise are maddening. There is so much acrimony and one-upmanship.  Then you spend time around people who support Best Buddies and those the organization serves and all the negativity melts away. I’ve done all this three times and look forward to doing it again next year because there is nothing more fulfilling than doing your part for an organization that does so much good for so many wonderful and deserving people. Just being around Best Buddies makes my heart soar. I got to know Best Buddy John when he and I worked in the governor’s office and he would run up to me every day with a big hug, call me “buddy” and tell me he loved me. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, what will? Listening to the speeches from Best Buddy Ambassadors or hearing them sing the National Anthem will melt even the hardest heart. The friendly, upbeat, appreciative volunteers and staff make riders feel like they’re part of a big extended family where everyone gets along! Everyone working hard, pulling together and celebrating their own physical fitness by tackling a stunning but challenging ride course, the world-class party and entertainment, the good vibes and love you feel in every person you meet―hell, I’d try to climb Mt. Everest for more of that. What I love about Best Buddies more than anything else is that the money we raise goes to those who need it, helping them find work, live independently and gain self-confidence and their rightful place in the world. The donations are not siphoned off by high administrative salaries. You write a check or enter your credit card number in the online form and you know your money is going directly for the people who need our love and support. I loved the signs put up for the last 10 miles of the ride that show pictures of Buddies with captions that say things like, “Because of you I have confidence.” There is nothing like this event and each year I’ve brought new riders, friends who are blown away like I have been and vow to come back again next year because they want more of this. The whole package. The schlep, the fundraising, the work, the challenge, the great upbeat people, the breathtaking vistas, the awesome party and the cause that fills your heart and tells you that no matter what else is going on in the world or your life, you can make a huge and lasting difference in someone else’s. Let’s go. I’m ready for next year, just as soon as my neck and shoulders stop aching from those last couple of climbs.

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