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Project HOPE

October 17, 2013

Texas – Thursday, October 10

I got packed up and then we headed to a big park nearby to start off the day with some walking. Brackenridge Park was a huge 340 acre park with a bunch of walking trails, and Tula and I set off on a couple of them. It was going to be another hot day, but at least we were in the shade a lot of the way. We covered a little over 3 miles in the park, and then I left Tula in the car while I went into the San Antonio Zoo, which adjoined the park property. I hadn’t been in a zoo since Washington DC, and this one was known for having some endangered species. It turned out to be a fun zoo to visit with some unusual animals. The first thing I saw was a Sun Bear – kind of a skinny version of a black bear with a heart-shaped marking on its chest and really long claws to dig out honey. I also saw an endangered Komodo dragon, and a beautiful clouded leopard. And there were hippos, elephants, zebras and ostriches. Then I came to the okapi enclosure where one of the staff was feeding it some kale – they have really cool markings. I saw an Andean Condor up close, and after that I came to the tiger habitat, where there were 2 little Sumatran cubs that had been born in early August. This was the first week they’d been allowed to come outside into the enclosure, and they already seemed pretty confident about finding their way around. Although mama tiger maybe thought they wandered too far because she went and picked one up by the nape of its neck and carried it back toward their shelter, and the baby tiger was not very happy about that. The lady who takes care of them said the tigers like “bloodsicles” and frozen rats, mice and gophers for toys. I watched them for quite a while, then saw some kangaroos and porcupines on the way out. I walked almost 3 miles at the zoo, which brought me up to 6 miles for the day.

Then it was time for my donation for today. I was heading for the San Antonio Food Bank where I was going to make a donation to their Project HOPE program, which stands for Healthy Options Program for the Elderly. Project HOPE provides senior citizens on a fixed income with supplemental groceries on a monthly basis, and that helps fight hunger and malnutrition. I met Maggie, the receptionist, and then I met Dawn, who wanted to set up a short video of me telling my story. She wanted to release it nationally to all the Feeding America food banks. So we went into their boardroom and i answered their questions while the videographer was recording it. She’d already had a busy publicity day because the local basketball team – the Spurs??? – had come in to volunteer their time. Dawn then took me on a tour of the place, and it was huge. We went into the kitchens, where they have a chef-in-training program and those people prepare nearly 1000 breakfasts for underprivileged kids, and they were finishing up work on a Kids’ Cafe meal. Then we went into the storage area, and they had recently finished a huge addition and couldn’t wait to start filling it up. The San Antonio Food Bank works with more than 500 partner agencies and has 600-800 volunteers to keep everything going. Their warehouse looks like a Sam’s Club or Costco warehouse – shelves stacked to the ceiling with food. Dawn told me if the food stopped coming in, their huge supply would be gone in only 2 weeks – they deal with an incredible amount of food. Then I met the ladies who work with the Project HOPE people, and they help hundreds of seniors with deliveries to various outposts. So many seniors need assistance that they would like to be able to open a couple more hubs. I was happy to help them out a little! The lobby also had the winning entry from the CANstruction program, where various businesses create “sculptures” of canned food, which is then donated to the food bank when the contest is over. The winning entry was a plane.

When I was finished at the food bank, I was ready for a meal, and decided to return to downtown San Antonio to walk on the river trail a bit more, and to have a replacement meal at the restaurant from yesterday. I had decided to give the baby back ribs another chance, and when they came out, they looked like a half-rack baby back ribs, but still weren’t fall-off-the-bone” tender – they were a bit tough. Maybe they should just stick to their large variety of hamburgers! But I appreciated them trying to make things right, and I left a big tip for the server since my meal was free. Then Tula and I walked a good 2 1/2 miles on the riverfront, and Tula got lots of compliments about what a well-behaved dog she was as she stuck right to my heels weaving through all the people and eating areas and up and over bridges and all. I heard one lady tell her daughter Tula was a red cross dog (maybe because of her red collar and leash?!?) Tula is wonderful on a leash under almost any circumstance – when I think back to what a horrible leash dog she was in her youth, I don’t know what happened to turn her into a good one, which was even before we began this journey! She used to pull and tug so hard I thought she would strangle herself, but now she is a model of good behavior on a leash, and I overhear other comments from people wishing their dog would be so good – I’ve even heard people talking directly to their rambunctious dogs on a leash, telling them to look at Tula because that’s how a dog is supposed to behave! The only thing she won’t walk on is something metal – like a metal plate on a sidewalk, and she goes out of her way to avoid those.

When we finished our walk, we drove up to Austin, where I had a free room (from points I’ve earned) for a couple nights. There was a huge 3-day music festival this weekend which I didn’t know about, so I was lucky to have a room (had made reservations ahead of time), but there was heavier traffic as a result.

From there I went on to take care of my donation at the San Antonio Food Bank. I was going to support the

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