A Morning at the National AIDS Memorial Grove

It has been such a crazy week where I feel like I have little-to-no downtime between activities. For example, here was my Friday: get everything ready in the morning for the day, swim lessons, park with the kids to meet an out-of-town friend, home for 15 minutes to eat lunch and transition kids with my mom, volunteer at the parents of multiples consignment sale for 4 hours, shop the sale, get a mani-pedi, pick up dinner and finally sit down at 8pm. Now I'm not complaining, I wanted to do the sale, it was great to see my friend from NY, and hello, a mani-pedi was about 45 minutes of relaxation. But it seemed like all of last week was like that and I was exhausted by the end of the day.

Sunday was no different, but it was something I was so looking forward to -- The Junior League partnering with the team at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park for a morning of teamwork, remembrance, and preparing the grove for their upcoming gala. I had heard such great things about this DIAD (Done in a Day -- one-off volunteer events), that it was such a unique bonding experience between the Junior League members and a special day of remembering the horrific epidemic that was going on while many of us were just babies. It was great to hear that Junior League has been a part of this issue since the earlier days when it was just breaking out in San Francisco.

I had set a reminder to sign up for the event when it opened -- I knew this was a popular one. Somehow I had the date wrong and it was already full when I tried to join. I was so bummed so I emailed the organizer hoping to get on a wait list and luckily it all worked out and spot opened up.

We lucked out and had another beautiful day, which was nice since it provided a bit of warmth under the shade of the Grove. I wasn't even aware that the Grove existed but as I spoke to some of the members of the team there, it seems like it's a great community. Every third Saturday of the month from April to October, they have a volunteer day where anyone can come and get their hands dirty helping to maintain the Grove, then everyone enjoys lunch together. Definitely something I'll think about doing as the boys get older; it's so nice for city kids to have an opportunity to work in the dirt like that.

The day began with an introduction by the Executive Director of the Grove. He asked the group of 100 Junior League volunteers how many knew someone who was living with, or had died from HIV/AIDS. I couldn't believe the number of hands that went up. Then he said, 'well, now you all know someone living with AIDS', referring to himself. He looked strong and healthy. It's amazing how much progress has been made in the treatment of the disease.

Next we split up into groups, grabbed some work gloves and began working on our tasks. This was good old manual labor and I definitely wasn't used to it ;) Pitch-forking mulch into buckets that were passed person to person until they reached their destination. Picking up leaves from a dried-up riverbed (sounds crazy to be doing this in nature, but it really did make a difference). In just about an hour and a half, it was clear we had made a difference.

The riverbed: after JLSF cleanup
After we finished up our work, we headed to The Circle of Friends which documents the names of those lost to HIV/AIDS in San Francisco, for a moment of silence. We found out Junior League of San Francisco would be added to memorial under the list of supporters, convenient as our President had just handed over a check ;)

We finished up with lunch provided by another one of the groups Junior League works with, La Cocina.

I had some great conversations, but after the crazy week, I think I most valued the time in nature being surrounded by so many amazing women, but not saying anything at all. These are women who gave up 4 hours on their Sunday (while the Niners were playing no less!) for this cause. The quality of the organization really came through -- we were fast, efficient and motivated and while the coordinators said, 'it doesn't have to be pristine', they didn't realize who they were talking to ;) I look forward to being a part of this event for many years to come.

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