On Saturday, June 2, Molly Morin of Hamilton is going for a bike ride - a hundred mile bike ride that is.
As a participant in the thirteenth annual Best Buddies: Hyannis Port Challenge, Morin seeks to assist the namesake organization in raising money to support programs for children with special needs.
As a mother of a 13-year-old daughter on the autism spectrum, Morin knows of the value of the Best Buddies programs firsthand.
“(Special needs kids) go to self-contained classrooms by middle school. There’s really no social interaction going on with her peers," she said, explaining how the educational and social lives of children like her daughter Julia differ from those of their mainstream counterparts.
As it’s name suggests Best Buddies, which was founded in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, strives to improve the lives of special needs children in part by promoting opportunities for friendship between volunteers and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“(The aim is to) gives these kids an opportunity to live a happy and normal life, to be accepted as who they are,” explained , whose husband Peter is also registered to ride in this year’s Best Buddies Challenge.
Melanie D’Orio of Wenham is another who is poised to participate. On completing this year’s ride, D’Orio will have peddled a total of 400 miles to aid Best Buddies.
Illustrating the depth of her commitment, D’Orio took time out from a vacation in Puerto Rico to talk about her involvement.
“I’ve just been so appreciative of what Molly has been doing for our community. Molly is pushing so hard (to get a Best Buddies program started in Hamilton-Wenham). And I really think that we need it. It would make such a big difference to so many families.”
Thankfully D’Orio’s two daughters, one six and one eight, are unimpaired by disabilities. It was the struggles not of her own children, but of the child of a friend who lives on the South Shore, that initially led D’ Orio to get involved.
As she explained it, her friend’s daughter struggled to advance intellectually past the age of 11. And at that time the Dorchester school system in which she was enrolled was ill equipped to provide for her needs. It was D’ Orio’s friend who discovered Best Buddies and worked to get its integrated program into the Savin Hill High School. Having observed the child’s gains through the help of Best Buddies, D’Orio jumped at the first mention of the Boston to Hyannis ride.
“I had just started running and thought ‘why not?’” said D’Orio.
“The experience was unreal,” she said, becoming emotional. “When you cross the finish line and the families greet you it’s so sincere.”
Offering further insight into what motivates her she said, “When you can say yes to something then you should do it.” Being a proponent of parenting by example she added, “I want my kids to say yes without missing a beat.”
The Best Buddies program helps all those involved, said D’Orio echoing Morin.
“It really makes a difference for kids who don’t have disabilities. It provides them an opportunity to participate in bridging the social gap.”