Miami, FL- In a vibrant display of philanthropy, over 700 supporters, participants, and volunteers gathered over the weekend to celebrate Best Buddies’ expansion into India. Through its signature programming, from one-to-one friendships and integrated employment to leadership development, Best Buddies seeks to implement its model of inclusion for those affected by developmental disabilities in the developing nation.
Draped with exotic silks, gold-laden fittings, and extravagant motifs, Wynwood’s Ice Palace Studios was transformed for the evening, complete with live elephant cloaked in traditional regalia to greet guests in the grandest of manners. A cocktail reception featuring Bollywood performances prefaced a live auction, curated by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, Founder and Chairman of Best Buddies International. Among the simultaneous silent auction items were a collector’s edition Hublot Best Buddies Cycling Timepiece, a custom portrait by Romero Britto, a luxurious Aspen getaway, and even a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of Dolce & Gabbana’s prêt-à-porter show in Milan, which includes a special meet-and-greet with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana themselves. With the over $3 million raised, the thriving nonprofit plans to sustain its eight formal initiatives – Best Buddies Ambassadors, Citizens, Colleges, e-Buddies®, High Schools, Jobs, Middle Schools and Promoters – while promoting its mission both domestically and overseas.
During the seated multi-course dinner, Ralph Winter, this year’s Spirit of Leadership honoree, was recognized for his $1 million contribution to Best Buddies to continue its work. A testament to the organization’s impact, Best Buddies Ambassador, Jack Mayor delivered a moving speech about how it has changed his life for the better. The evening culminated with a special musical performance by four-time Grammy nominated, multi-platinum Australian rapper, Iggy Azalea. Among the attendees were Best Buddies International’s Founder, Chairman & CEO Anthony K. Shriver and his wife, Alina Shriver; Actors Nolan Gould, Jason Lewis and Kevin McHale; Actress and Model Charlotte McKinney; Singer Austin Mahone; four-time Tour de France Winner Chris Froome; Miss Teen USA 2017 Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff; and International Pop-Artist and Ambassador, Romero Britto.
Led by Tour de France winner Chris Froome, alongside pro cyclists George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde, the day’s festivities kicked off at Marlins Park with the Best Buddies Challenge: Miami, a 100K six-star cycling event, limited to just 50 cyclists.
Since its inception in 1989, Best Buddies has evolved from a single college chapter to an international platform benefitting over 1.1 million people annually, both with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. Catalyzed by this momentum and aligning with its ambitious 2020 initiative, the organization plans to expand its presence via a network of offices in all 50 states, as well as 100 countries, committed to not only engagement, but empowerment.