People Paddle for AIDS

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Safety drill before People Paddle
Photos by John Han

On April 15, 2007, twenty-three AIDS service organizations inspired individuals kayaking on the bay to raise over $22 thousand dollars to help with the fight against AIDS. 117 kayakers launched from the South Beach Marina at 10:17 am, paddled to McCovey Cove, a little way under the bridge and up Mission Creek and then back to a finish line at South Beach Pier 40. All arrived back safely. Sergeant Danny Lopez of the SFPD Marine Unit commented on the “well organized event”.

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One Brick volunteers work on the docks

The event was organized by People Paddle, a consortium of individuals dedicated to combining kayaking with fundraising and was sponsored by Healing Waters, whose mission is to empower, inspire and enrich the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS through outdoor adventures.

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PeeWee Memorial fund for Jennifer Newsom’s dog, championed by athlete Patricia Cowden, brought in pledges for PAWS

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Healing Waters Executive Director, Mike Dugan, stated, “This is the first time that AIDS service organizations have worked together on a fundraising event out on the water. People are so excited about having a good reason to try kayaking while helping their favorite HIV/AIDS organizations to raise much needed dollars.”

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Healing Waters performed volunteer coordination, checked the integrity of all participants’ life jackets, performed coat check duties, security, provided banking, database management and a thousand other details necessary to this event.

Some of the beneficiaries were: AIDS Emergency Fund, AIDS Health Project, AIDS Legal Referral Panel, Asian & Pacific Wellness Center, Bay Area Young Positives, 360 Black Coalition on AIDS, Derek Silva Community of Catholic Charities, Healing Waters, Hazel Betsy program of Lutheran Social Services, Metropolitan Community Church, Mission Neighborhood Health Center, Most Holy Redeemer AIDS Support Group, Native American Health Center, New Leaf, PAWS, Positive Force program of the STOP AIDS Project, Positive Resource Center, Project Open Hand, Shanti and Vital Life Services.

According to volunteer event coordinator, Melody Lacy, “The second most exciting thing about People Paddle, aside from the paddling, is the registration and pledging software, written by Dean McCully, which empowers donors and paddlers to choose exactly where their dollars go. This is going to become Large”. The software automatically directs eighty-five percent of all pledges raised to go directly to the nonprofit organizations ‘championed’ by the individual kayakers. Healing Waters contracted to pay all event costs, even if they exceeded the remaining 15%. Thanks to the support of many sponsors and frugal efforts on the part of many volunteers, even Healing Waters will benefit from People Paddle.

The sponsors included the California Department of Boating and Waterways, the City and County of San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, Metromint, Aquan Sports, Blue Waters Kayaking, Energy 92.7 FM/KNGY, Half Moon Bay Kayaking, REI, Sea Trek Kayak of Sausalito, Trader Joe’s Bay Street store and the Sports Basement’s new Presidio store. The historic Java House Café provided a discount to People Paddlers, encouragement, support, advertising and an electrical outlet for the band! The efforts of many created an event people will be talking about for some time to come.

Participants received a breakfast snack, designer bottled water by METROMINT and a T-shirt, as well as a safety whistle and other toys, coupons and surprises. City Kayak, San Francisco’s premier kayak rental establishment, provided untold hours of free support and over 60 kayaks at half price to the People Paddle participants. One Brick and Alpha Phi Omega, the National Service Fraternity at USF performed as Dockworkers, carrying kayaks and helping people into and out of boats.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence blessed the fleet as they launched from Pier 40, race shouted encouragement to the paddling kayakers while riding along in Captain Rick Webber’s safety boat, provided special blessings to many individuals, presented awards and led the dancing as Kimrea and the Dreamdogs entertained the crowd after the last kayak arrived safely ashore.

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Dignitaries in attendance included Scott Oswald, Jason Chan and Alex Randolph, members of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, who presented Mike Dugan of Healing Waters with a notable proclamation declaring April 15, 2007 “People Paddle for AIDS Day in San Francisco”. Supervisor Chris Daly moved the supporting resolution unanimously through the Board of Supervisors.

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Mayor’s Liaison to the LGBT Community Alex Randoph

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Supervisor Chris Daly
File Photo by Bill Wilson

People Paddle founders, Dean McCully and Lisa Bickford, and People Paddle Event Coordinator Melody Lacy plan to repeat the People Paddle event in the future along with the sponsor Healing Waters. According to McCully, “Not only is this an excellent way enjoying the beautiful bay, meeting new people and making new friends, but preliminary accounts indicate we raised over $22 thousand dollars to fight AIDS today!” Final accounting due in 30 days because pledges may continue to trickle in over the next couple of weeks.

The weather was spectacular and the kayaks colorful against the inimitable views of South Beach.

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To learn more and find out when the next People Paddle will occur go to www.peoplepaddle.com.

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