If you live in the San Ramon Valley, chances are your images of Independence Day include the Kiwanis Fourth of July Parade. It draws a crowd of 20,000-40,000 depending on which estimate you hear. After the Kiwanis luncheon last week, the Fourth has a new meaning for me - an awareness of how many good causes around here are helped out with proceeds from the parade.
At the luncheon, Kiwanis handed out more than $30,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations, which was 75 percent of those groups that had made requests. To paraphrase one recipient: "Whoever said money doesn't buy happiness never worked for a small nonprofit." One after one, the recipients told heart-rending stories of programs to help children, the aging, stressed families and battered women. They provide hot meals for people down on their luck, and help for homebound hoarders. They tackle the problem of cyber-bullying against teens and preteens, and provide a place for people with Down Syndrome to express themselves and be with their peers. They provide counseling and support groups in times of stress, including seeing loved ones face the ends of their lives.
After listening to the grateful recipients I began to take pride in what the Danville Weekly does to promote the largest Fourth of July event in the area. The parade is one of two major fundraisers held by the Kiwanis of San Ramon Valley each year. The other is a golf tournament. But the golf tournament is limited to golfers and those who love them. The parade is open to anyone who wants to join in the fun and can walk, dance, ride or wheel the entire 1.2-mile route. You also have to able to get there early enough to stand around for a few hours waiting for Kiwanian Dave Stegman to give you the signal to head on out.
When marching (OK, walking) down Hartz Avenue last July 4 holding the banner for the Danville Weekly Marching Band, I felt very much a part of the community and very patriotic, wearing my festive red, white and blue beads. We were lucky enough to have high school musicians march under our name, thanks to the efforts of San Ramon Valley High band leader Cheryl Yee Glass. This year I will also feel pride to know that the participants' financial contributions do so much good for worthy causes.
It's not necessary to become a member of the Kiwanis of San Ramon Valley to give something very important to the community through them. You only have to get together with co-workers, friends or neighbors to join the parade. See which of the categories best describes you: Marching unit, band, horse, float, majorette, antique auto, bicycle, novelty-comic, animal non-horse, special interest auto, Scout Troop, school, dance/theatrical, family, country club, neighborhood/homeowner association, church group, retain business, service business, sports team, community service/special interest-nonprofit community organizations and civic or public safety organizations.
There is also a category called Parade Theme, which this year is "Celebrating our Youth." Organizers are looking for one thousand young people to head up the parade, recruiting now for those 17 or younger who will dress up and ride a decorated bike, razor scooter, roller blades or any other non-motorized transportation. They have to wear helmets, and children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult. These kids get to participate for free - a wonderful chance to be in the parade. Otherwise, commercial entries pay $550; non-commercial, $70; and veterans groups, $50.
The lucky young people who start out the parade will be able to circle back and find a spot to settle and watch the rest of the marchers. That is if every square inch of the sidewalk isn't already reserved the night before. People have to wait until 6 p.m. July 3 to put out their chairs to reserve their spots, although I've heard that some people use chalk to mark their reserved spots before it's legal to put out the actual chairs. After walking the entire route last year I can tell you that there are some areas that are sparsely populated with parade-goers, especially toward the end of the route by the Livery.
I used to think it was tres cool to sponsor the Kiwanis Fourth of July Parade because I love the San Ramon Valley and it is such a wonderful local event. Now I think it's great because it does more than boost community camaraderie on the Fourth - it raises money for a multitude of good causes.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.