On Nov. 15, a supermoon rose from behind Santa Ana Peak and illuminated the links of San Juan Oaks Golf Course, while inside the banquet facility, a room full of representatives from 52 local nonprofits sat poised to hear the stories of 44 superheroes, the most recent honorees to be acknowledged by the Community Foundation for San Benito County at the 15th Annual National Philanthropy Day Celebration.
The evening highlighted their accomplishments and provided an opportunity to remember the other 758 superstars recognized over the past 16 years, giving of their time, talent, or treasure to help change the lives of countless people who live in San Benito County.
Another superstar, retired teacher and outdoor enthusiast, Jim Ostdick, addressed the assembly, sharing his recent experience of walking across America, from ocean to ocean, and the gestures of philanthropic kindness he received from “trail angels” along the way.
“Make no mistake about it. The people of America are absolutely the greatest people you can imagine. They are proud, they are generous, and they are kind. Everywhere I went, in every town, across every state along the way, people were genuinely interested in what I was doing. They were respectful of me as a person, and they were overwhelmingly generous.
“Talk to any long distance hiker and you will hear about trail angels and trail magic," he said. "None of us do these long trips by ourselves. Somehow, the trail always provides help—we call that trail magic (i.e. unexpected good works or good fortune that comes your way when you need it the most). Trail magic occurred to me on a daily basis for seven and a half months. After a while, I truly felt like I was being led from place to place to meet a new trail angel every day. They brought me a bottle of water or a cold soda or a handful of snacks—they offered me a place to stay for the night … and sometimes they just brought simple words of encouragement, ʽI know you can do this, man.’
“At first, I had to learn to accept these gifts. I found that it was important to these trail angels for me to close the loop—to say, ʽYes,’ and to offer them my thanks. Their giving allowed them to participate in something that was bigger than both of us. Maybe that’s what philanthropy is all about—something bigger than any of us. In the innocence of that moment, life gets just a little more beautiful.”
In closing, Ostdick challenged everyone to get out and walk one of the many superb trails in San Benito County and to dream of the day when there is a “county-wide system of trails that brings us all together and shows off the best of the beautiful place we call home.” A donation to REACH San Benito Foundation will help to make it happen, he said.