09/11/2011 at 10:10 PM EDT
It's been a difficult year for Maria Shriver, but she's had plenty of support from friends and family – no more so than this weekend.
California's former first lady, who filed for divorce
this summer from Arnold Schwarzenegger, joined her brother Anthony and her children at a charity bicycle race Saturday that also served as an emotional pick-me-up.
“I appreciate your support, particularly this year, for sticking with me,” Shriver, 55, told a crowd at a barbecue Saturday at Hearst Castle as part of the 100-mile race.
Shriver served as honorary chair of the Audi Best Buddies Challenge: Hearst Castle, which raised $4.5 million and also included a Friday night VIP reception at Clint Eastwood's Tehama Golf Course in Carmel, Calif.
On Thursday, Shriver and daughter Katherine attended the Fashions Night Out event at Diane Von Furstenberg's store in Los Angeles.
Shriver spoke both Friday and Saturday about a recent experience with a friend who has intellectual disabilities.
“When I was going through my own challenges this year; feeling down and confused, I got an email from him. He wrote me a note saying, 'You're my best friend Maria and you will never be left out,' ” she said. “When the world is so complicated, the simple gift of friendship is within all of our hands. Thank you to everyone who came up to me this weekend and wished me well.”