Sunday, July 17, 2011


Today I participated in my third San Francisco AIDSWALK in Golden Gate Park. This was my second time performing here as a musician with the Panhandlers Steel Drum Band.

Early morning view of the start line

From the reports I heard, 25,000 walkers raised over $3 million dollars to support services that improve quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS. The Panhandlers have been donating their gift of music at the event for at least 12 years.

Being at the starting line is a beautiful and overwhelming experience. We begin to play while the crowd eagerly waits for the gates to open. Once they do, a flood of people walk right towards us before turning to continue down the route. All of their collective support, excitement, and togetherness washes over us as they dance, smile, and holler past us. As you can imagine, this city feels the affects of HIV/AIDS more deeply than most other places in the country. Last year I secretly wiped away a tear or two in between songs.

The route is a loop so the walkers pass us again on their return to the finish line. Event volunteers wave pom poms and ring cowbells to celebrate each walker's return. Once they reach the finish line, people really stop and dance, come close to curiously look at our drums, and take group pictures.

That's me in the hat!
I really love the community feeling amongst the walkers. Groups from many large corporations come and walk wearing specially designed team t-shirts. Individual walkers come, too. Many people brought dogs and/or kids. The first dog to reach the finish received a huge cheer! I think he was both proud and overwhelmed.

Even the weather cleared, leaving us with a beautiful view of Sutro Tower through the eucalyptus trees.
I'm so honored to be a part of this event. I hold close to me those I know and have known whose lives have been affected by this disease. They are fathers and sons and children, women as well as men. In 2011, they live with less fear and greater comfort, thanks to those who have worked to bring a cure ever closer.

This is the power of community. Where do you participate with your community?

{If you have an extra minute or two, take a peek at this video to share in the magic of today's event!}

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