Fuel to Keep Moving Forward!
By Maria Shriver
The last few extraordinary weeks of the Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles have filled my heart. I am overwhelmed by the countless displays of bravery, strength and inclusion. These Olympic Games have put fuel in our mission to support Best Buddies and build a more accepting world for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). We have about a month to go in our work to raise money, recruit others to join the team and train for those monster hills on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Riding with you each year in the Best Buddies Challenge, I feel – just as you do – the tremendous power of Best Buddies. We all want to belong, to be part of a team, but we have all known what it’s like to be left out and excluded. We also know the respect and dignity that comes with having and holding a job. At its heart, that’s what Best Buddies is all about: fostering friendships, building experiences and providing jobs so that people with IDD can be self-sufficient and experience firsthand the power of a job.
We’ve brought together hundreds of people from diverse backgrounds, built amazing friendships and, most importantly, peddled together as a team to expand the opportunities for people with IDD everywhere. Together, we have moved the needle to make the world better for everyone. According to the recently released Shriver Report Snapshot: Insight into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Centuryour nation is in the midst of change. The findings show a major shift in the impressions and overall acceptance of people with IDD, including:
- An overwhelming majority of Americans (93%) who believe that adults with intellectual disabilities should be encouraged to have jobs.
- 4 in 5 adults (83%) who say they would be comfortable working alongside someone with IDD or would be comfortable employing them (80%).
- Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) who say they would be comfortable having their child be in the same classroom as a child with IDD while almost the same amount (88%) say they would be comfortable having a neighbor with IDD who lives independently.
I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. But, our work isn’t over. We have so much more to do. Though many think that people with IDD should have a job, only 4 percent of them actually do. While people overwhelmingly feel positive only a small percentage actually admit to being able to call someone with IDD a friend. So, our mission is clear. We know what we are riding for. We are riding for friendship, jobs and expanding acceptance.
If you haven’t yet registered for the Challenge, which takes place on September 12, then do it (here). If it’s been a while since you’ve been on the team or have supported our journey, please come back – we need you. This is my last year as the Honorary Chairwomen of this incredible Challenge, so I hope to have all Team Maria members and company supporters from over the years back to help celebrate Best Buddies, have fun and continue our important work.
To the dedicated company sponsors, the fundraising donors, the passionate riders, and the dedicated volunteers who power our team, thank you for making Team Maria a uniquely special and rewarding experience. With only weeks until we once again unite in our awesome purple team jerseys, I know you will work hard to help reach our fundraising goals.
I’m excited to see you soon. And remember, we must keep moving forward!