The best times I have had with friends have been when we have tried new things together, explored interesting places, or pushed each others’ limits. I love having a diverse group of friends who can challenge my views of the world and stretch the boundaries of my comfort zone.
My dear friend, Julia, challenges me every day to learn about her culture, to try new foods, to listen to new music, and to meet new friends. In the two years we have been matched, we have made many incredible memories. We first met in the Friend 2 Friend program in June of 2014. Before we met, Julia had never tried riding a bicycle, but bike-riding has always been one of my favorite activities. I was eager to share my love of cycling with Julia who, at first, was really hesitant to give it a try. But I knew Julia was up to the challenge, and after a lot of training, we rode in our first Rodman Ride in September of 2014. Even though Julia had never been on a bike before that summer, we rode 25 miles that first year, and Julia was determined to push herself to ride 50 the next. Crossing the finish line last year is one of my favorite memories with Julia. We accomplished something big.
Biking is just one of the challenging activities through which Julia and I have formed a strong, loyal bond. This summer, she taught me to do Zumba. She’s great at it, though I probably looked pretty silly as I tried out new dance steps and moved my body in ways I did not even know I could. Julia supported me through the whole class, and now it’s yet another something we love doing together. I am so grateful to have Julia in my life as a biking teammate and as a cherished, irreplaceable friend. The rest of my friends and family know how much she means to me.
This year, our friendship inspired others close to us to join us in the Ride. Our training rides looked like so much fun that it took little convincing for my boyfriend, Mike, to join us. He and Julia rode tandem this year. My friend from Nashville and one-time match in the Best Buddies Program at Vanderbilt, Christy, signed up to ride tandem with me. My mom, Nancy Glick, could not resist the opportunity. She flew in from Cleveland, Ohio. Two other friends, Michael Stetner and Katie Pincus, who joined in some of our training rides and heard so many inspiring stories from Julia and me, signed up to participate, too. It was a great day.
I urge you to support the work of the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters organization through a gift to the Ride. JBBBS makes finding and maintaining strong, healthy friendships possible for so many adults with disabilities – including Julia. Personally, I’m grateful the Friend 2 Friend program has enabled us both to enjoy this strong, meaningful friendship. Right now, over 50 adults with disabilities are awaiting a Friend in the program and your gift makes it possible for JBBBS to make and support new matches.
Jessica Solomon is a member of the Friend 2 Friend Steering Committee.