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Biking for Best Buddies

On a crisp day last fall, a group of cyclists led by Dr. Toby Katz saddled up and rode down the California coastline as Team CHOMP in a picturesque but strenuous effort to raise money for the Best Buddies International® program.

My Buddies ChallengePart of Team CHOMP assembles before the ride.
From left: Alan Arvin; Michael Smith, MD; Neal
Harris, MD; Catherine Hambley; and Toby Katz, MD.

A nonprofit organization, Best Buddies is dedicated to creating friendships, integrated employment opportunities, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It was founded in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, who was inspired by his mother, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and her establishment of the Special Olympics.

Today, Best Buddies operates six programs that positively impact more than 400,000 participants every year: Best Buddies Citizens/Colleges/High Schools/Jobs/Middle Schools and e-Buddies®. Best Buddies pairs volunteers with people with disabilities to develop one-on-one relationships. The organization has chapters throughout the United States and operates accredited international programs in 44 countries.

To raise funds for these programs, 10 years ago Shriver established the Audi Best Buddies Challenge®, a 100-mile bike ride from Boston throughout the New England countryside to the Kennedy family compound. After the success of the East Coast ride, Shriver wanted to create a West Coast version that ended at someplace as spectacular as the Kennedy property. Four years later, he and his sister Maria Shriver, California's First Lady, created a ride covering the 100 miles from Carmel Valley to Hearst Castle in San Simeon.

And that's where Team CHOMP came in. On September 12, the group, made up mostly of doctors, assembled on the starting line and headed south. Team members were doctors Alex Dubleman, Neal Harris, Mike Herhusky, Jeff Hyde, Mary Scannell, Mike Scannell, and Michael Smith, as well as Catherine Hambley, Susan Rowland, and Alan Arvin.

"The tough, hilly ride down the coast is symbolic of the Best Buddies cause," Harris says. "It shows that the world is filled with challenges and suffering, and that it is also filled with great beauty and overcoming those obstacles."

At the end of the ride, Team CHOMP and the other riders enjoyed a gourmet barbecue and a private concert by Ciara on the grounds of Hearst Castle.

"It is such a nice fit for Community Hospital to be involved in the Best Buddies Challenge," says Rowland, director of Medical Staff Services, who helped coordinate a reception for Maria Shriver in connection with the event. "Last fall was Community Hospital's first year to participate. We brought in quite a lot of money for the cause and, because Audi sponsors 100 percent of the event, all the money goes to Best Buddies."

Rowland and a colleague are working on establishing a Best Buddies chapter on the Monterey Peninsula to develop a donor base for the organization and draw additional participation in future bike challenges.

"Last fall," she says, "the challenge had close to 900 riders peddling down the California coast, including Team CHOMP. We anticipate an even bigger, stronger team next year."

On September 11, 2010, Team CHOMP will join hundreds of celebrities, athletes, and other individuals to again saddle up and ride south for Best Buddies. Distance options include 100-, 62-, 35- and 15-mile rides along the Pacific Coast Highway. Those not geared to bike-riding can go for a 5k run or 3k walk led by Olympic track star Carl Lewis near the finish line, all followed by massages, a gourmet barbecue, and a private concert at Hearst Castle.

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