Travis standing 400 strong
What a day yesterday was. It was one of those experiences that is hard to describe in words which makes me glad I took a ton of pictures. I decided I will show this day in 36 pictures in honor of Travis’ 36th birthday.
A legion of angels had spent days creating these amazing care packages in brown paper bags filled with food/toiletry items with Travis’ picture and quote on it, all donated including the printing of the post cards and the large banner that was used at the park (pic below). Most of us gathering around Tanisha to help her make her dream come true actually met randomly at the trial and formed lifelong friendships. I reflected on that yesterday, how Travis brought us all together and we’d likely not have met each other any other way. One of the jurors, who was actually unfortunately an alternate in deliberations, joined us with her sweet family. It was heartwarming to see children participating in this cause, learning about the good feelings associated with giving.
This is my car with Steve in the driver’s seat
Steve and I brought cases of water and individually wrapped crackers and lemonade just as kind of an add on. I would have normally been there to help with the gift bags as I love that kind of project but my leg injury side lined me for a couple of days.
Steve and I got the car packed up for the day and headed out to the church, about a half hour away in Mesa. We were warmly greeted at the door by who I think was the Bishop. They knew we were coming and asked if we were part of the Travis group. We took up two full rows in the center of the church. Everyone was wearing their Travis blue and Tanisha sat right in the center of my row. The Bishop started off the service giving a tribute to Travis and explaining why we were all there. One of the speakers, a church member, who gave a testimonial, broke down in tears as she began to speak referencing how daunting it was for her to speak with Travis’ family in the congregation. It was all very moving.
Two Rows of Supporters at Travis’ Ward
We all took a picture outside before heading over to Joilyn’s house to pack up our cars and change clothes (well in reverse order). It was already getting so hot outside. It looks like Steve and I are photobombing here but we are actually standing on our tip toes. 😉
The packing of cars actually went pretty quickly with a group. Things are so much easier in life when done together. Which as I write, was kind of the theme for the day.
Once the cars were packed to the gills with bags, canopies and coolers, we caravanned out to the park in Central Phoenix – about a 40 minute drive.
As we unpacked everything and set up, many of the folks hanging out in the park, who we came there to serve, joined in with the work. It was so hot but I kept thinking “if these folks have to navigate this heat every day, living in it, I can certainly tolerate this one afternoon in Travis’ name”. It is very daunting to be out there in the middle of it, learning what people are actually dealing with in our community. I also thought of my brother, how people just like him, end up in living situations like that because they have limited support. I saw a man who reminded me of John actually.
We set up canopies, tables, chairs, hundreds of bottles and water and of course hundreds of gift bags (400 plus actually). People started gathering.
I looked at these bags lining the sidewalks and thought of luminarias
In the middle of our setup was what I’d call a centerpiece, focusing on Travis. The lovely banner, Books of Mormon, pictures of Travis and a large picture of Jesus. Tanisha and Harold brought all of that with them from California.
I saw this empty seat here and thought “that’s Travis’ seat”
When we arrived, the Channel 10 van was already there. As we set up other news stations arrived with cameras which we were basically maneuvering around and they blended in filming whatever they were filming. People also brought bags of clothes and shoes and there was an area for people to go through all of those. That was actually I’d say, the most popular section of the whole set up which made me think I need to go there more regularly as I clean out my closet. I was asked a couple of times if there were more clothes somewhere.
We got to visit with several of the homeless people who came by and hear their stories. I heard from some of the gals that one woman shared she’d actually been in jail with Jodi Arias at one point. How bizarre was that? She didn’t have much nice to say about her, I heard. Good.
That same woman ended up on Channel 15 news segment and we were all in tears hearing her, again, saying “this is the Heart of God”. She kept saying that at the park and I turned to someone and said “that’s the whole point right there”. You never know where your wisdom will show up. It’s good to pay attention.
This news broadcast is worth a watch:
About an hour after we got there, a woman who’d shown up quite a bit at the trial named Tiffany, came up with bags and boxes of food. She’d purchased dozens of loaves of bread, jars and jars of peanut butter and jelly, chips and bags. She set up a station to make sack lunches so we all did an assembly line, handing those out as well. It was very unexpected and generous of her! Most of us sat down and had a sack lunch ourselves as, at least in Steve and my case, we hadn’t had breakfast or lunch by 1pm. We had to laugh about how Steve got the Hot Fries, in the 106 degree sweltering heat. 😉
A couple of the news stations did interviews with Tanisha. She was as eloquent as I’ve ever seen her. Her whole heart was in this project and she was wearing it all over her royal blue sleeves. It was a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of.
You can view that Fox 10 broadcast here:
At one point we looked and had what seemed, about half the bags still there so decided we’d take them back to the shelter and as Tanisha said “cover the freeway exits on the way home”. But suddenly we looked up and hoards of people were walking over from the direction of the shelter. Word must have gotten out.
It seemed like in a matter of 10 minutes all the bags were gone.
Someone brought a big poster board and markers for people to write messages on (great idea). I sat at that station for quite a while talking to some neighborhood kids who’d come to help us, have some lunch and each get a bag. One of them, a little hispanic boy named Chris who seemed about 10 years old, started talking to me about the trial. He knew the name “Jodi Arias” and wanted to know “what the Judge is gonna do”. I was actually quite shocked he knew so much about it as such a young boy. He wrote his “Happy Birthday” message to Travis with a green smiley face. When he went to leave, he realized his two gifts bags were gone. He said “I’ve been robbed” with a smile on his face. All the bags were gone by then so we scrounged up whatever cracker packages and other things we could find and created him a little bag. As Steve and I drove away we saw them walking down the sidewalk, waving at us, Chris with a big smile on his face. It was amazing spending time with those little kids in service. Kids so naturally want to please.
I knew when I’d hit the wall at the park. The heat was over the top and we were all feeling like we were going to throw up or pass out. Steve and I sat in the car with the a/c on for awhile. Again I thought of those who have to live in this environment day after day, coping. It’s very humbling.
We stopped back at my house and I had to take a long shower to just hydrate and cool myself down. I laid down on my bed to just regroup for a minute and instantly fell asleep for 45 minutes. Came downstairs and Steve was similarly crashed on my couch. 😉 Wish I’d gotten a pic. lol
We gathered ourselves together, cookies, wine I brought to the party and headed back to Joi’s for the celebration.
yes we were all wanting ice bergs in our drinks
We had great food (of course), drinks, swimming, watched all three local news broadcasts of the event on Joi’s big TV, talked and talked, laughed, cried and bonded. I have to say it was so interesting having Tara there as she’d served on the jury. I feel so bad that she didn’t get to deliberate after devoting all of those months to the trial. She shared with us so many perceptions of the trial experience and all those involved. We asked her tons of questions which she was very engaged in answering. It was funny, her watching the trial, us watching her. As many of you remember, I studied that jury like a scientist. When she shared stories related to this witness or that I’d nod my head saying “oh yeah I took notes on you that day”. It’s all kind of surreal remembering those months and how we oddly bonded, including with Tara from a distance, never speaking with her but somehow knowing her and her “Ponytail” (the nickname I used for her for months..and yesterday she was sportin her signature ponytail!). 😉 She’s a sweetheart and a very “our kinda people” person.
We stayed at the party talking and talking until about 9 then lit Travis’ birthday candles, sang, and Tanisha made a wish and blew them out. She gave a little speech about how today was perfect and how much she appreciated everyone joining in as we all did. It was very very touching.
I hope you enjoyed these 36 photos in honor of Travis’ 36th. Tanisha says she wants to do this every year, and I know every one of us will gather in support of her dream and her heart.
Happy Birthday Travis. Thank you for inspiring me.