A Note From MTeam Captain, John Christian
Hello. My name is John Christian. I’m captain of the MTeam, a Best Buddies Challenge team of cyclists, runners, and walkers that was established in 2016.
We came together out of a desire to raise awareness and funds for my friend, Greg Lewis, and his family. He and his wife Laura have a daughter, Meredith, or MerBer as her dad calls her. She is the MTeam's Chief Motivating Officer. Her smiles keep us riding, running, and walking to bring awareness to the rare genetic disorder she was born with, which is called FoxG1. Our team motto is #MilesForSmiles, because once you are rewarded with one of Mer’s smiles, your heart will be full and you will work that much harder to support the many wonderful people Best Buddies reaches.
When Greg told me about this organization advocating for inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I knew right away that getting involved with Best Buddies was the best mechanism to make the strongest impact for Mer and many others.
Greg and Laura run or walk the Best Buddies Challenge 5k each year with Meredith in a running chair. Along with other parents of people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities, they continually teach us about sacrifice and unconditional love. They simply love life for what it is. It’s a beautiful and uncomplicated message that translates into kindness for everyone. We need more of this in the world.
I encourage you to take a few minutes to read our blog interview with Greg and Laura, to learn more about their life with Meredith.
When the MTeam began in 2016, we were a small group of six cyclists. We raised over $11,000 for Best Buddies International in our first year. We rode 50 miles and fell in love with the Best Buddies cause. Since then, we’ve held several fundraisers where families and their kids feel welcomed, included, and loved; we increased awareness by advocating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and sharing their stories; and have continued to grow. While many team members walk or run the 5k or take on the shorter cycling rides, I now challenge myself each year to complete the 100 mile ride. In 2019, we were nearly 60 strong, and we raised around $150,000 for Best Buddies International.
Beyond our work directly with Best Buddies, we were also thrilled to be able to donate a piece of life changing technology called the Tobii Dynavox PCEye Plus to Meredith’s school (watch the video below!). Alongside other classmates with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Meredith, who is non-verbal, has been able to communicate for the first time. This innovative technology is the world’s first device that combines advanced eye tracking, switch and infrared control with speech recognition. Essentially, it allows Meredith and her classmates to use their eye movements to control what they see on a screen. Not only has she been successfully able to let her teacher know she wanted a glass of water and ask to watch a cooking show, her vision and focus are improving, and she has even been able to use this technology as an outlet to express her creativity. Mer’s first painting, created with her eye movements, became the inspiration behind our 2019 jersey design, which won a Best Jersey Design and Concept award.
I created the MTeam for Meredith and for kids like her. I want them (and their families) to live in a world in which they are not seen as disabled, but rather they simply have different abilities than me. There is no reason why people who are different should be excluded from relationships, education, work, and other activities because they are different. Best Buddies works to change exclusive culture and ableism. They start with friendship in schools, and they help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities secure jobs and teach leadership skills so they can get out in the world and live, speak to people, and advocate for themselves. Though some may need a little help, everyone should be able to participate in order to live their best life.
My goal, one small step at a time, is to change the fear some have around people who are different. I am inspired by a few people and their families and they give me the courage to do that. If they can do what they do day in and day out, then so can I.
We would love to invite you to support us and this incredible community by joining the MTeam, donating to our fundraising campaign, and simply helping us share our stories and the many other stories behind it.
CAPA The Global Education Network: Our Lead Sponsor
Along with being captain of the MTeam, I am also CEO of CAPA The Global Education Network.
At CAPA, we’ve chosen Best Buddies as one of the designated charitable organizations to support. CAPA is the MTeam’s lead sponsor and this has afforded us the opportunity to cultivate our growth and fund our events.
About Best Buddies International
Globally, there are over 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Best Buddies International supports a basic human right: inclusion. This nonprofit organization creates opportunities for friendship, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living, helping individuals form meaningful relationships with peers; secure successful jobs; live independently; improve public speaking, self-advocacy, and communications skills; and feel valued by society.