Best Buddies hosts local cycling challenge, gala

MIAMI (WSVN) - Bicyclists were up by the crack of dawn for the Best Buddies bike ride that tours South Florida, starting at Marlins Park.

Those who go above and beyond to give back to their communities attended a gala in Wynwood, Friday night, after participating in the Best Buddies Challenge, a 62-mile bicycle ride from Marlins Park through South Beach and Key Biscayne, and back again.

“We get to do a police motorcade ride. It’s awesome,” said participant Rachel Losada.

Like any other sporting event, the ride began with the singing of the national anthem, and Marlana Vanhoose did the honors.

Best Buddies founder Anthony Shriver is the son of the founders who created the Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sergeant Shriver, who gave them all a send-off. “I just want to start out by saying how excited I am, how grateful I am, thrilled and humbled by our incredible success by Best Buddies Miami,” said Anthony.

Participants were equally excited by the experience and the bonds they created during the long ride. “We all support each other, like Best Buddies supports people with disabilities around the world and around the country,” said participant Horst Ferrero.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said sponsor Mary Jane Mark. “I know everyone will have the time of their life. It’s something they never forget.”

“We have about 60 riders that are fundraising $600,000, all to support our friends with special needs,” said participant Jon Brideau.

The riding and the fundraising don’t end with the return trip to Marlins Park. Friday’s gala is expected to bring in millions for the charity. “All the money we raise will go to create job opportunities for people like Kellie,” Mark said.

Kellie Howard with Best Buddies makes a living working at a local university. “I work for the University of South Florida; go Bulls!” she said. “At the freshman dorm dining hall, I’ve been there five years, and they call me ‘Kellie Deli,’ and I like having my own money in my pocket.”

The theme for Friday night’s gala was rock legends. Those in attendance were treated to a rock concert featuring a performance by Kesha.

Anthony Shriver started Best Buddies in 1989 to promote inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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