A Note From Our Team Captain, John Christian
My name is John Christian and I’m Captain of the MTeam, a Best Buddies Challenge team. We first established our team in 2016 out of a desire to raise awareness and funds for my friend, Greg Lewis and his family. Greg was the one who first told me about Best Buddies and I knew right away that this was the best mechanism to make the most impact. He and his wife Laura have a daughter, Meredith, or MerBer as her dad calls her. She is the MTeam's CMO or Chief Motivating Officer. Her smiles keep us riding, walking and running to bring awareness to the genetic syndrome she was born with, FoxG1. Our team moto is #MilesForSmiles because once you are rewarded with one of her smiles your heart will be full and you will work that much harder to support the many wonderful people Best Buddies reaches.
Greg will be running in the Best Buddies Challenge with Meredith in a running chair again this year. Mer's parents and others like them teach us about sacrifice and unconditional love. They simply love life for what it is. It’s a beautiful and simple message that translates into simple kindness for everyone. We need more of this in the world.
We were just six riders in 2016 and raised nearly $13,000. 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 and we increased awareness about people with IDD. This year we are aiming for 100 riders and runners and our goal is to raise $250,000! Next year will be even bigger. We want to be the largest civilian team in the Best Buddies challenge!
Along with being captain of the MTeam I am also CEO of CAPA The Global Education Network. CAPA is the team’s lead sponsor and it’s afforded us the opportunity to cultivate our growth and fund our events. We at CAPA chose Best Buddies as one of our three designated charitable organizations. CAPA is part of the Best Buddies community. So much so that our newest staff member was hired from the Best Buddies Job Program. His name is Harry; he is a great guy and quickly has become an asset in our organization. We are not just giving Harry work and a paycheck which will give him independence, we are ensuring this work provides real skills, so he can be involved, have a career and engage with the community. We hope to inform and advocate for people with IDDs to gain employment as part of our work. Part of this goal includes a study abroad program for kids with IDDs. CAPA is currently working on this new project; a short term global leadership program concept and we hope to launch it in 2018.
There are over 200 million people around the world with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Best Buddies is a program that supports a basic human right: inclusion. It is a nonprofit organization that aims to build opportunities for friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For individuals within this community, Best Buddies helps them form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communications skills, and feel valued by society.
I'm doing this for Meredith and kids like her. I want them (and their families) to live in a world in which they are not disabled but rather 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. They start with friendship in schools, they help people with IDD’s get jobs through their Jobs Program (like Harry) and teach leadership skills so they can get out in the world and live and speak to people about themselves. Everyone should be able to participate but may need a little help.
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 different 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.
Thank you and we would consider it an honor to tell our story and the many stories behind it.