The Love Between Father and Son: James and Vincenzo
Dear Best Buddies Family,
Being a father is the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I am so grateful that I get to share my passion for service to individuals with special abilities, with my five children, just as my father Robert Sargent Shriver, Jr. did with me and my sister and brothers. Sarge Shriver was the best father anyone could ever have because he led by example through his commitment to excellence and service to others. Each day, I strive to do the same and live my life in a way that would make him proud.
In celebration of Father’s Day, I’d like to share with you this story of father and son, James and Vincenzo Stankard. The Stankards have been actively involved with Best Buddies for 27 years. During this time, James and his family — wife Laura and son Vincenzo — have become an integral part of our Best Buddies Challenge: Hearst Castle event. Since 2005, the Stankards have been top fundraisers on Team Maria and have raised nearly $590,000 for Best Buddies! I am so grateful for everything this family does to further the Best Buddies mission in making our world a more inclusive one for people with special abilities.
Words from James Stankard
It is hard to summarize how much of a truly life-changing and awe-inspiring impact Best Buddies has had on our lives. As our family likes to say; “Best Buddies Changes Lives for the Better!” To have been involved with Best Buddies for 27 years; for my wife and I to have met and shared a connection via Best Buddies; and to now be parents of a child with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) — the most amazing, smart, fun, and loving boy in the world. It is truly the greatest blessing and we feel we are the luckiest family in the world!
Vincenzo has strengthened our faith, family, love, friendships, and commitment to inclusion and a world where everyone knows Best Buddies and all abilities are accepted. Anthony has been a great friend and an incredible inspiration to our family. Anthony’s energy, persistence, vision, compassion, and relentless commitment to people with IDD is truly amazing. Anthony has circled the world and continues to raise the bar, never settling and always pushing forward Best Buddies’ mission of friendship, inclusion, jobs, and living. Vincenzo is living proof of the miracles of life, love, faith, family, friendship, and hope! Best Buddies is an integral part of our daily life; so much in fact that we are trying to build a business where we can do more with Best Buddies Living and Best Buddies Jobs.
It is almost impossible to put into words the pure joy I experience every minute of every day as Vincenzo’s father. Vincenzo is everything to my wife Laura and myself; Vincenzo literally wakes up every day with a smile and we are truly blessed to spend every day together learning, playing sports, being silly, growing and having fun together. We are so very blessed and I guess I would say it is really almost this simple; almost everything that I thought was important in my 20’s and early 30’s completely changed (for the better) the day Vincenzo was born. Laura and I often speak about this. Vincenzo lights up our souls and he is our world. Vincenzo has taught me to be a better man; to focus on family first and live in the moment.
In 2009 – 2010 we faced significant family health challenges; Vincenzo had major heart surgery; Laura’s father died from cancer; my father died from Advanced Parkinson’s Disease and my mother died of a brain aneurysm (all 3 parents died within a 6 week period). At times the stress seemed overwhelming, but our incredible love for Vincenzo helped us prevail. Vincenzo in Italian means “The Conqueror” and Vincenzo’s love conquers all.
Vincenzo is thriving and impacting so many lives. People and children are drawn to him, they want to know him and play with him and enjoy spending time with him. Vincenzo is so smart. He loves to read, write, make art, build and solve math problems…he understands so much. Vincenzo has so many abilities. The hardest part as a father is not to “over-protect” him, but to let him be independent. Vincenzo has no limits, only opportunities, love, and his amazing abilities. Vincenzo has taught me to be more kind; less guarded; more patient; to always put family first, and he has strengthened my faith.
Vincenzo, I love you because you bring so much love and joy into our lives. You are an amazing, brave, strong, courageous, determined, strong-willed, persistent, fun, loving and wonderful son.
Words from Vincenzo Stankard:
The best life lesson my father taught me is to be kind and have fun. We’re alike because we love to be silly and we’re different because I like to bike and he likes to workout. Best Buddies has impacted my life because everyone is included.”
Dad, I love you because you play with mommy and me.
Words from James Stankard:
Each person has their own unique gifts to share with the world. People with IDD share their gifts through friendships, community, colleagues, in activities and beyond. Their love, acceptance, and unique abilities make the world a better place. People with IDD have helped us to recognize and understand everybody’s unique abilities and to understand that everyone communicates differently. We have a good friend who is non-verbal but says more with his smile and gestures than many people do with words.
Best Buddies has helped us recognize and value the potential everyone has within them to contribute to society. People with IDD are incredibly persistent and we value the wonderful friendships we have made through Best Buddies. Our experience and friendships within Best Buddies have helped us become better people and better parents.
Left: James Stankard & Anthony K. Shriver at a Best Buddies college fundraiser / Right: Buddy pair and dear friends Michael Kelly & James Stankard
Happy Father’s Day!
Anthony K. Shriver
Founder, Chairman & CEO
Best Buddies International