- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

The Shriver family doesn't lack for friends, which is a very good thing for Best Buddies, Anthony Shriver's Miami-based charity for the mentally disabled. More than 600 supporters paid $500 apiece to attend a black-tie fund-raiser for the cause Saturday night at the Potomac home of his parents, Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, which, although very grand, was necessarily expanded by a massive circus-size tent.
"The economy's in the tank, but we're actually doing better this year than we did last year," Anthony Shriver said while greeting guests alongside his very frail mother in a foyer filled with Kennedy family photos and memorabilia (lest anyone forget the charity's pedigree). Mr. Shriver, who founded Best Buddies in 1989 when he was a student at Georgetown University, says he was inspired by his Aunt Rosemary, who was born with a mental disability and later lobotomized. His organization works to create one-on-one friendships and job opportunities for people with mental retardation.
One brother, Mark Shriver, recently defeated in Maryland's Democratic primary, didn't show up, but another, Timothy, did. Timothy, who arrived wearing a whimsical tie with big fluorescent polka dots, runs Special Olympics, an organization founded by his mother to provide sports programs for the mentally disabled. The two Shriver charities "just use different vehicles to achieve the same thing," he explained.
This year's gala honored Kristine Johnson and Jessie Nelson, the creators of "I Am Sam," a movie that offers a sympathetic portrayal of an intellectually limited man (Sean Penn) fighting for custody of his 6-year-old daughter. The film, peppered with references to the Beatles, inspired the evening's theme, "Love is all you need."
The event benefited from corporate sponsorship (its official title was the 14th annual AOL/Time Warner Best Buddies Ball) and the usual odd mix of guests, including ponytailed wrestler Triple H (with some buxom friends); Miss Virginia USA Julie Laipply; MicroStrategies founder Michael Saylor; and Ted Leonsis (accompanied by the Washington Capitals' fuzzy eagle mascot, Slapshot) among a generally younger crowd sipping cosmopolitans and inspecting the wide range of silent-auction items. The so inclined could bid on everything from dog obedience classes to a weekend with the Red Sox during spring training.
After-dinner entertainment under the tent featured a performance by "world-renowned Swedish Magic Master" Joe Labero and a meant-to-impress live auction. The big-ticket item: a Volvo XC90, billed as being "muscular, yet not aggressive." Not to mention expensive. Valued at $46,000, the dream machine went for $86,000.
(As an added, if incongruous, bonus, the new owner got to drive it home accompanied by actress Ashley Judd.)
The benefit raised $1.5 million for Best Buddies despite Anthony Shriver's fears that the poor economy might cause his usually generous friends to limit their purchasing. How clever that he had a contingency plan.
"Don't worry," his mother told him. "If nobody bids, I'll buy it all myself."

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