By: David McGinn
This week I had the heart-warming experience of attending the Safeway Kick-off celebration for the Easter Seals Autism Awareness Month at their grocery store location in Alameda. I was there with producer Jason Burns and technician David Goodin to collect some material for a video BARS+TONE is producing on behalf of the Easter Seals Bay Area. The video will help raise the awareness of Autism and highlight the worthy cause of the Easter Seals and the positive impact that they have made on so many people’s lives.
The event was humbling, inspiring and sublime… There was a Police Escort led by the Alameda Chief of Police, Michael Noonan. There were children from the Easter Seals Child Development Center singing songs, there were celebrities and sports-stars and there were some really amazing people in attendance!
There was Safeway Executive Vice President and Safeway Foundation Chair, Laree Renda , who was the host of the event and who has helped to raise HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of dollars for groups such as The Easter Seals, The Special Olympics, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and for Cancer Research.
And there was Easter Seals President and Chief Executive Officer James E. Williams, Jr., and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Anne Swinney and CEO Michael Pelfini of Easter Seals Bay Area…
There were Chris Winston and Kristine Templin who develop partnerships with corporations to raise money for the Special Olympics. There was KTVU Sports Anchor Joe Fonzi and KNBR Sports Talk Show Host Brian Murphy…
And Cathy Rigby – Women’s Gymnastics Hall-of-Famer, who helped bring Gymnastics to the forefront of women’s sports in the US through her achievements in the 1968 Summer Olympics and in the 1970 World Championships. Cathy is probably just as famous for her leading role with a Tony nominated performance in the hit musical “Peter Pan” on Broadway.
Jason Romero and Brandy Chastain
And there was Brandi Chastain… The Olympic and World Cup Soccer Legend who scored the winning penalty shot in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Championship in one of the greatest moments in sports history and tore off her shirt in an unforgettable act of victory and pure awesomeness. In 2005, Brandi founded the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative or BAWSI which “creates programs and partnerships through which women athletes bring health, hope and wholeness to our community.” It’s pronounced “bossy” which is awesome.
During Brandi’s address to the forum at hand, she said that she is a solutions person… that there might be people in the world who call out what is wrong and what is not working; however, it is the people who take charge and who act to make a positive difference that are the people with whom she wants to associate –Spoken like a true champion.
But the real stars of the event were some of the employees of Safeway who were there that have been diagnosed as having “disabilities” in one form or another. These employees shared their stories of overcoming loneliness and isolation and moving on to participating in life and joining a network of people that is inclusive, helpful, caring and focused on improvement. I didn’t see any disabilities in these people. I saw smiling faces, stories of triumph, achievement, gratitude and empowerment. They gave me a new perspective and made me thankful for the goodness of humanity.
For example, a beaming Special Olympian, Jason Romero, carried the Special Olympic Torch across the last leg of a relay marathon to hand-deliver the “Flame of Hope” to the event. He was accompanied by the aforementioned police escort and several other members of the Alameda Police Department, which was a very big deal.
Then there was the bag-packing challenge where CEO’s and sports super-stars were completely and utterly schooled by the tenacity and prowess of these, very special, competent and confident Safeway employees.
Safeway is one of the nation’s largest employers of people with disabilities and has raised more than $112 million for Easter Seals. They have a goal right now to beat last year’s amount of funds raised and YOU CAN HELP.
The next time you are checking out at the grocery store and you see a request for a donation to a worthy cause, take a moment and DONATE. Look to the friendly and capable person who is bagging your groceries. The person who, after packing your groceries, will ask you if you need help getting out to your car… Look to them and see their bright eyes and smiling face, and understand that they just might have had to overcome some of the most difficult challenges that life can throw at anyone. Look at them and know that there are families that need help. Give that person a warm “Thank You” and DONATE TO THE WORTHY CAUSE. Be it the Easter Seals, The Special Olympics, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and/or BAWSI; understand that these organizations have helped so many people and their families work through and overcome some profound difficulties. These organizations have helped people who have been diagnosed with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and other severe developmental conditions to get the care and treatment they need. They have helped empower people who were born with Down Syndrome and other physical afflictions to lead more independent and fuller lives.
Give. Every little bit helps. Just take a moment, donate and look… You will see your charity in action.