- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2006

Under veiled mosaic chandeliers hanging from mammoth garden tents, the 18th annual Best Buddies Ball, led by 41-year-old Best Buddies founder Anthony Shriver (youngest of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver’s five children), attracted about 750 guests to his parent’s Potomac estate on Saturday and raised more than $1.2 million for Best Buddies Israel.

This newest foreign program joins others in more than two dozen countries on six continents.

“From the very beginning, I thought we had to go international,” said Best Buddies auction co-chairwoman Eunice Shriver, who, at 85, looked fabulous in a black beaded silk overblouse and evening pants from Armani, the designer “who has been a wonderful Best Buddies supporter himself.”

Listening to every word her son and guest Israeli speakers said, this celebrated Kennedy, who started the Special Olympics, just couldn’t resist taking notes. When she couldn’t find pen and paper fast enough, she scribbled with a borrowed pen on the blue Tiffany box she had just received as a thank-you gift.

This year’s ball, Tzedakah, a Hebrew word meaning charity, kicked off fundraising for the new Israeli program, which promotes further inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities, always a concern of Mrs. Shriver, whose late sister Rosemary was intellectually disabled.

Since 1989, Best Buddies has grown from the original chapter here to more than 1,300 chapters in middle schools, high schools and colleges in 50 states, plus a citizens group, job bank and e-Buddies, all creating one-to-one friendships for more than 300,000 people with intellectual disabilities.

“The first year, my mother held the “gala” around our dining room table,” Anthony Shriver remembered, “and she’s been inviting us home ever since.”

Enthusiastic guest speakers from Israel included a former Israeli chief rabbi, Israel Meir Lau, and speaker of the Knesset, Dalia Itzik, who called Best Buddies “the essence of charity.”

“CSI: Miami” star (and Best Buddies board member) David Caruso flew in to accept the Best Buddies’ Spirit of Leadership Award from his 22-year-old daughter, Greta, former president of the Yale University Best Buddies Club.

“Wow, what an honor,” the redhaired actor said, humbly. “People are drawn to Best Buddies because of the importance and sincerity of this organization, which actually changes lives.” Mr. Caruso dedicated his award to his Best Buddy, 40-year-old George Morilla of Miami.

Best Buddies’ devoted supporters enjoying the live and silent auctions, black-tie dinner and dancing with live entertainment by Blondie included underwriters May Liang and James Lintott, who co-chaired with Lynn and Ted Leonsis; vice chairs Pennie and Gary Abramson; Anne and Roland Abramson; and Annie and Sami Totah. Others included Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis and Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah of Iran, along with two of Anthony Shriver’s “childhood heroes,” former Redskins Darrell Green and John Riggins.

Gail Scott

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