A very hilly bike ride that covered either 100, 62, 30, or 15 miles of the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, heading south and ending at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, was truly a grueling challenge for all riders. Among them were five Ismaili riders.

On September 7, 2019, hundreds of men and women from around the country had descended upon the California Coast to take part in the Best Buddies Challenge. The atmosphere was festive, with loud cheers encouraging the finishers as they moved through the final stretch.

All participants and volunteers in San Simeon were here to support Best Buddies, an organization that is dedicated to creating opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This cause motivated and inspired the Ismaili riders who rode with Team Maria Shriver this year, and who have done so for the past eight years.

For rider Amyn Barolia, the main reason he supports Best Buddies is because of “what the organization does in school settings—creating inclusive environments supporting students with intellectual or developmental disabilities.” Their school clubs’ programs pair up people with and without disabilities to ensure that each student (Best Buddy) has a friend, mentor, and classmate. “They can lean on their Best Buddy when they are facing challenging situations,” says Amyn.

What keeps rider Alishan Jadhavji coming back to do the Best Buddies Challenge is the thought that he is “doing good while having fun — can’t beat that! Fundraising each year for this challenging, yet incredibly gratifying 62-miles along the California Coast, it’s been remarkable to see how generously and willingly people support Best Buddies.” Alishan is already looking forward to riding next year.

Rider Hussain Moloo states that “participating in the Best Buddies Challenge at Hearst Castle had a lot to do with the Shriver family.” He was fortunate enough to also work with a team that hosted the Bangladesh Special Olympics Team in 2015. The Special Olympics movement was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in the early 1960s and the Best Buddies program is another Shriver-inspired movement.

The initial impetus for this initiative came from the Council for the Western United States, but Amin Gilani has participated in these charity rides over the years. He is also inspired by the programs and initiatives this charity has taken. In the last ride, Amin saw a best buddy playing music at all rest stops which was very inspiring and noted that the buddy and his mother have a band that plays professionally in parties as well. 

For rider Azim Rajan, Best Buddies International is important because the organization “serves a segment of the population that is often overlooked, making the cause even more fulfilling.” He adds that “the annual beautiful and challenging bike ride motivates me and my colleagues to ride early on Sunday mornings during the year, so as to maintain our fitness. Hopefully, this will enable us to continue to participate in future such events, having completed our ninth year this time around.”

Maria Shriver spoke to the team and thanked them for the continued support and participation for so many years and for their completing the 62-mile course. She also mentioned her appreciation for the volunteers that we continue to send to the event. This year, eight volunteers from the community went to set up, welcome, and assist bikers as they finished the race.

For the last nine years, the Ismaili Community under I-CERV has annually partnered with Team Maria Shriver and Best Buddies for the event. It is a relationship that has grown and found a home in the lives of our riders and volunteers.