Saturday morning, I carried two memorial flags in the Kansas City AIDS Walk. I figured since I had joined Terry's Memorial Team this year that I would end up helping in some way with the memorial flags. Families and friends who have lost loved ones due to AIDS can carry a flag bearing the name of that person. The flags are either purchased by the family member or sponsored through donation. Some times circumstances arise where a family member can not be there to carry a sponsored flag. That's where volunteers like me step in to make sure those flags get carried. Last year I ended up carrying flags commemorating years. This was my first time carrying a flag with a name on it and as I stepped up to the stage, I realized that no one had stepped forward to claim the flag next to me. So I picked that one up too. Here's how the whole flag procession works. The memorial flags are lined up on stage. After the mayor talks, the family members and volunteers go up on stage and stand behind their flag. Then, as someone sings a memorial song, the flag bearers walk down from the stage, through the crowd of walkers to the street where we wait for the start of the walk. Then the mayor and the flag bearers lead the walk to the JC Nichols Memorial fountain where we then spread out along the sidewalk so that walkers can pass by the memorial flags. I have to say that there was something really poignant in carrying one of these flags with an actual name on it. This was a person. Someone's son, brother, grandson, nephew. He was loved. And he was a victim to this awful disease. A girl walked past me while I stood with my flags at the fountain. She looked up at one of the flags and then gasped "that's my uncle!". She then asked me if she could hold the flag for a while. She didn't know about the memorial flags. She didn't know that she could honor her uncle in this way. I told her who to contact so she could be involved with the memorial flags next year.
So often we do these charity walks because we're raising awareness for a particular disease or disorder. We want to help fund research for better treatments. I know that's a big reason for why I walk and raise money. The intent is on making the future better. It's easy to forget that many of the people walk to remember. Sure, they want to see better treatments and even a cure, but the real reason they walk is to remember that loved one they lost. The AIDS Walk is filled with mothers who have lost their son or daughter, sisters who have lost brothers, and husbands and wives who have lost spouses. Before I left for the day, Terry took a minute to remind me of how awesome I am (roll eyes). He said "You didn't have to get up so early and deal with the rain to do this, but you did." He's wrong. I did have to be there. I had to be there to carry that flag so that girl could find her uncle. I had to be there to carry those flags so that it was clear that the men and women memorialized on them were, are, and will always be loved.
Again, I cannot thank you enough for your donations. Your generosity humbles me. Happy, happy Love Thursday.