Cycling event benefits the intellectually impaired
"We should take care not to make the intellect our god," Albert Einstein once said. "It has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality."
Evidence to that effect may be found in the Best Buddies International program, which arranges employment and mentor-like friendships for the intellectually impaired.
The Draeger's supermarket chain has such employees on its staff, though not at its Menlo Park store, and they are a joy, co-owner Richard Draeger says. "They do a very good job, and customers love them, and it's a win-win," he says.
Keith Myers, who manages Draeger's in San Mateo, describes one intellectually impaired employee at the store as earnest, diligent and ready to help out wherever he can.
"What he lacks in physical ability, he makes up for with integrity," Mr. Myers says.
To benefit the Best Buddies program, Mr. Draeger, a longtime cyclist and a resident of Woodside, has spent much of his free time recently on a bicycle seat putting in 100 to 130 miles per week to prepare for a 100-mile ride down the California coast on Sept. 6.
He and the other five cyclists on his team are raising at least $1,750 in donations from friends and associates. Joining him on the coast ride will be Woodside residents Gerry Griffin, Mike Danko, Jim Marguet and Bob Phillips, and Los Altos resident Andy Lewis.
Anthony Kennedy Shriver founded the Best Buddies program in 1989, and Maria Shriver, wife of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a regular participant in California chapter events.
While Mr. Draeger is not a mentor in the program, he says that he and his wife Mary Ann have impaired relatives. "I understand the challenges that occur with any parent of a child with intellectual disabilities."
Mentors bring a level of comfort to their buddies, and that comfort is an agent of change, Mr. Draeger says. "They think that they can do a lot more than they could have otherwise."
In his experience, Mr. Draeger says, he has found that Best Buddy mentors develop reinvigorated feelings as contributing members of society.
"It's a life lesson," he says. "I think society is better off as well as these individuals. ... There are an awful lot of good, productive purposes for every single one of us."
In addition to the emotional rewards, the Best Buddy bike ride along the dramatic Big Sur coast — whether 100, 62 or 15 miles long — ends with a "five-star" barbecue and concert at Hearst Ranch, and Hearst Castle itself. Ms. Shriver is expected to attend the barbecue.
The 100-mile ride includes 6,000 feet of elevation, but the wind should be southerly and at the riders' backs, Mr. Draeger says.
He says he's looking forward to the natural beauty of the journey from Carmel to San Simeon. "It's about as spectacular a coastline as you're going to find anywhere in the world," he says.