Monday, May 2, 2011

random acts of kindness by Oaklanders

Saturday night was the 10th annual Oakland Firefighters Random Acts awards dinner. It's a fundraiser, but it's also a chance to celebrate and honor some of the people who make Oakland better.

Random Acts was started by Oakland firefighters, to give back to Oakland and help with some of the things they see day in and day out while on duty, but also to give them a chance for positive experiences. They see lots of bad: accidents, fires, victims of violence. Years of that takes its toll, so engaging in Random Acts can help the process of healing by letting them experience some good.

Coach Brooks and
McClymonds players

Many of the random acts of kindness are done with individuals and other organizations in Oakland, and several of those were honored Saturday night. First was McClymonds High basketball coach Brandon "Boozy" Brooks. Not only has he led the Warriors to multiple state championship games, he's made a positive impact on his players outside of school, too. They're regularly involved in community service events, and the players say the coach is like a father to them. They may not all end up in the NBA like McClymonds' alums Bill Russell, Antonio Davis, Joe Ellis, Paul Silas, and Nate Williams, but they'll be better people for it. Coach Brooks was given the Citizen Hero award.


Another Mack alum who's doing good is Shaheda Wright, along with her son Mikey Callahan. A few years ago, Mikey was a normal kid. Then he got sicker and sicker, and required a liver transplant to save his life. Afterwards, his mom asked him how he wanted to 'pay it forward', and he replied "feed the homeless". That first Christmas they were handing people food out of the trunk of Shaheda's car; now they're a 501(c)(3) serving food to the hungry on a regular basis. Check out the TV clips on the media page of the Mikey's Meals website. Shaheda and Mikey were given the first-ever Mom & Pop Green Community Service award.

save a life

On hand to present the award was Mom & Pop's Daughter, Sharon Green-Holder. And on hand to thank Mikey and Shaheda were the parents of the young man who died, whose liver was used to save Mikey's life. How terrible to lose a child, but how great to know they helped save other lives after death. And even better to know it saved a remarkable kid like Mikey. You can save lives, too -- be sure you're registered as an organ donor with It turned out the young man was a Raider's fan -- he had a Raider's tattoo that his parents didn't know about. In a nice gesture, an Oakland Raiders rep heard about the connection, and had Raider great Jim Otto sign a picture to the parents.


The final award, the Act of Kindness award, went to the youngest OFRA award recipient ever. One of Mom Green's sayings was "it's never too late to do good." For Pilar Ortega, it's apparently never too early to start. At age 4 she was breaking open her piggy bank to send money for Peru earthquake relief. Now at the whopping age of 7, she's moved her efforts to a whole new level. After the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan, she made posters, collection banks, etc. and went to each classroom at her school (Sequoia Elementary in the Dimond district) and made a brief speech. With the help of some friends, her efforts raised over $1,150 to support relief efforts in Japan.

A pretty amazing group of Oaklanders, no? A bunch of other people were helping make the event happen and were on hand to honor the award recipients. Rita Williams of KTVU News was once again the MC. The principal of Franklin Elementary School (which has taken part in OFRA's "books and balls" program), Jeanette MacDonald was there. Andy Pumphrey, a past Citizen Hero award recipient, was there to cheer on this year's winner. (Andy saved his niece in a 2.5-story fall and was paralyzed from the chest down. Andy is now able to walk unassisted; you may have seen the KTVU segment on it that Rita Williams did a while back.) Karla Jackson, of the Ariel Outreach Mission, was there to sing a song she'd written to thank OFRA, Local 55, and the OBFFA for the support they've given her mission.

Part of the plan for Random Acts was to spread it all over the country and the world, as firefighters and other first responders face the same problems everywhere. Berkeley Firefighters Random Acts was one of the first programs based on the one here in Oakland, and were given a shout-out for their raising of $30,000 for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation. Albuquerque Firefighters Random Acts was there. Even mayor Jean Quan and her husband were there -- check out the brief mention in her recent newsletter.

I'd also like to thank some of the many businesses that supported the event:
Linden Street Brewery (I was especially thankful for this)
Oakland Raiders
Oakland A's
Oakland Audio Visual Service
Oakland Zoo
Children's Fairyland
California Canoe and Kayak
East Bay Blue Print
Plus there are lots more outside Oakland, and I know I'm forgetting some (I had to make thank-you slides for all the businesses and groups that supported the event, and it was a lengthy list this year). Thank you all!

my view of the stage

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