When we became the parents of two special needs children, we knew that life had some extraordinary moments in store for us. Being a part of the Audi Best Buddies DC Challenge was one of those moments. To be surrounded by a community of people that believe in the power of acceptance and inclusion and to serve as witnesses for the difference that power has made in our lives was something we will never forget.
For those of you that are not familiar with Best Buddies, it is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Audi Best Buddies DC Challenge is one of their annual fund-raising events.
Our day began long before the sun rose. We arrived at the National Mall admidst thousands of athletes powering up for their races. Steps from the National Monument, we took to the stage and stood with Ben as he sang the National Anthem before both the bike and running races. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I listened to Ben sing, surrounded by our children and framed by the image of our National Monument in the background.
From there, the celebration continued as we hit the dance floor with hundreds of students and their buddies. We cheered as buddy teams performed karaoke and competed in dance-offs. Bitty especially enjoyed being the center of attention on the dance floor.
We were then transported to the race’s finish line at Morven Park in Leesville, VA. This historic home, set on more than 1200 acres served as the perfect location for our celebration. Throughout the afternoon, we cheered on tandem buddy teams of riders, visited with new friends including “Glee’s”, Lauren Potter and gold medal Olympian, Carl Lewis, and ate lots of delicious food.
At the conclusion of the afternoon, we assembled for the final award presentation. Anthony K. Shriver, founder and chairman of the organization shared a heart-felt message with the audience and then invited Ben and Beau to the stage. As Beau stood to his feet and took to the stage he said, “Let’s do this.” And that’s just what he and his daddy did. It was something I will never forget…watching the two of them share the stage and share our message. Ben allowed Beau the last note of the song and it brought down the house.
The evening concluded with a private concert from Sugar Ray and I can assure you that the Wright family shut down the party. Perhaps the highlight of the trip for Beau was when lead singer, Mark McGrath, took time to speak to him after the concert and made him feel like a rock star, too!