I just had the most amazing weekend—hands down, one of the best experiences. Besides playing football with Tom Brady and a handful of his teammates, I got to be a part of an organization, the Best Buddies, that literally changed peoples’ lives before my very own eyes. Here’s my play-by-play:
I was on Tom Brady’s Team
When my mom and I got to Boston we did some sight-seeing and got cozy at the hotel before the kick-off football game with Tom Brady began later that evening. Luckily for me, I was on Team Audi, the official vehicle of Best Buddies International and the Title Sponsor for this particular event that I was attending in Hyannis Port, MA. (Yes, this means Audi chauffeured my mom and I around all weekend—in a car, the Q7 TDI, that I’m now in love with!). On Team Audi, besides me, were a group of buddies and a handful of professional football players, and we were set up against Team Country Kitchen (another sponsor of Best Buddies)—Tom Brady was acting as the quarterback for both our teams. This was a true football experience: We hung out in the locker room just as football players do, calling off the roster and discussing our plan of attack (for me, not embarrassing myself was number one; getting close to Tom Brady in the huddle, a very close number two!). One of the coolest moments I think I’ll forever remember, was running out onto the field with a extremely excited group of kids and NFL players, as they called each of our names and showed our faces on the big screen. Verne—”Mini Me” from Austin Powers—threw the coin toss as Carl Lewis, a regular Best Buddy volunteer called the start of the game. (Yes, the same Carl Lewis who is considered the best athlete in the world!!). If you can imagine the setting—Harvard football Stadium, about 3,000 fans watching, hundreds of cameras going off and journalists crowding around trying to get an interview with Tom and Carl—then you can imagine how nervous I was feeling. I may be able to swim in the Hudson or run half-marathons without much training, but this was different….
Raising Money For A Good Cause
Nonetheless, I wasn’t playing until the second quarter so I had some time to learn the game. (What can I say, I’m not one of those girls who watches football often!) When it was time for me to face Brady, the game wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be—I really just ran around and did what Tom said. And I was even set up against the new Miss America, Rima Fakih, who was also one of the celebrity volunteers of this Best Buddies event. Let me tell you something, Miss America has nothing on me when it comes to football—I made sure she didn’t get that ball! Team Country Kitchen did win, but my Audi Team only finished a few points behind. Regardless of who won, we all had such a good time and the kids were ecstatic to just be playing football with their peers (and some very famous celebs!). Afterward, we took pictures with Tom (see below!) and chowed down on a delicious dinner prepared for us by celebrity chef, Guy Fieri. As we were eating dinner at the VIP event for sponsors, volunteers, and all the buddies and their family, Tom auctioned off autographed footballs at $1,000 each. I’ve never seen a charity raise $20,000 in only 3 minutes—there actually weren’t enough footballs for the amount of people that wanted one! (Just so you know, Audi and Best Buddies have raised over $30 million in total donations since 2007. That’s a lot of money! And for this particular event, they took in over $4 million.)
A 20-Mile Bike Race? Not!
The following morning I prepared for my 20-mile bike ride, but due to the on-and-off torrential downpour I decided to sit it out (yes, I felt like such a dork for sitting it out). I was actually really bummed about this because the course is beautiful and I needed to get a good bike ride in, but with my triathlon a little over a month away I couldn’t afford to hurt myself. I know I’m accident-prone and since I’ve never biked in the rain before, I didn’t want this time to be the first. I think that’s an important lesson though: If you have a really big race, or an important event coming up, doing anything risky before your big day can ruin all the hard work you’ve put into training. You have to make judgment calls…and this was one for me. After the 100, 50, and 20-mile bike races were finished, the volunteers and buddies participated in the Buddy Races on tandem bikes (the two-seaters). Okay, if you’ve never rode on one of these, it is much harder than it looks! How these kids did it, I do not know, but they had the time of their life racing around the track against the pro players.
Talking To Tom One-On-One
At press time (when journalists get some one-on-one time with the person of interest) I got to chat with Tom for a bit about his workout style, and what he and his beautiful and famous wife, Gisele, like to do together to stay in shape. “I think you have to do what you both like, even if it’s different, try to get it done together,” Tom said. “I like to box and Gisele prefers Jui-Jitsu, but we’ll try to get this in at the same time; although, when she does yoga, I leave that to her.” As we always say at Shape, the key to staying motivated is doing something you love. He also mentioned he likes when girls aren’t afraid to get tough and aggressive with their workouts and training. (Get those boxing gloves out ladies!)
Get Involved With Best Buddies!
Besides spending time with Tom Brady and the other celebrities I met (and spending extra time with my mom on a really cool trip), this event was truly special for me. Best Buddies is an organization that gives hope and opportunities to kids with IDD (intellectual and developmental disabilities) and gives them the self-esteem and confidence they might normally be lacking. I was so touched as I watched Tom, his teammates, and Anthony Kennedy Shriver (the son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics) interact with these kids all weekend long. They gave every second they had to hanging out, playing sports, and making these kids feel comfortable. And Tom and all those macho football players you see on TV, well they’re genuinely, sweet awesome guys when it comes to giving back. They became real buddies with the kids and made them feel just like one of them. You should have seen the smiles on these kids’ faces as they got to throw a football around with a professional athlete and participate in a real bike race with their families.
I think volunteering is a big part of life that we all should take time out to do—this was truly a feel-good moment I’ll never forget, and always try to experience again. When I think of it, nothing else seemed more important this weekend than making these kids happy—and we were able to help them with that! But, all of this is because of an organization like Best Buddies (bestbuddies.org), which gives them opportunities to be leaders in their communities and schools and lead normal and productive lives. This is absolutely a charity that I hope I can continue to support—I may not have a ton of money to give, but I certainly can give my time and volunteer at upcoming Best Buddies events.