Give Back Kick Back: Volunteering and Tropical Vibes Party in the Parks

I think everyone has those few places in their city that they run to for a mini-escape, and this whole park is that and more to me. Golden Gate National Recreation Area will always feel like home. This past weekend, the Parks Conservancy, the non-profit organization supporting Golden Gate National Parks hosted their annual volunteer event at Fort Miley. Formally known as FOGG Fest, Give Back Kick Back is a tropical-inspired volunteer day party. In the morning, you volunteer in the parks. After the hard work you put in, the afternoon is full of relaxation, good food, fun, and friends. Oh and your girl got to co-host the event! Ahh. 

Many of the current donors and supporters of the Parks Conservancy tend to be the generations that came before us avocado lovin' millennials.

By all means, I know we love it too, I see so many of us enjoying places like Fort Mason, Crissy Field, and Ocean Beach every weekend.  We just need to know the how's and why's we can be a part of the change. Well, that's where the importance of these events come in. In the recent years, The Parks Conservancy has turned it up with these experiential events to spread awareness, and grow the love and support for our natural lands. The proceeds from the event tickets go straight back to supporting Golden Gate National Recreation Area and it's education and stewardship programs. Now that I've let my heart sing a bit about why it's important... let's get to the fun details.  Here's how the day went down.

golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event

Part I: Give Back

Bright and early on National Trails Day, over a 150+ attendees kicked off the day and geared up with gloves and picks. We were ready to get our hands dirty for the cause. With the help of the Conservancy Stewardship Team, we divided and conquered the trails along Land's End. Another group went to paint over graffiti in the batteries.

As we pulled invasive plants out of the ground, Abbie and I uncovered wild succulents that were THRIVING. They were completely hidden by the weeds prior to that, and it felt rewarding to see how our efforts were already making a difference.  And that was just our AH-HA moment for the day... imagine the impact we made with 150+ hands on deck! 

give back kick back ggnra
golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event

So many volunteers put in hard work that day... it truly was a labor of love. There was a sense of unity that we were working towards a common goal and it was motivating to keep at it. Even through the work, we were having conversations with the volunteers around us, laughing and enjoying ourselves.

volunteer golden gate national parks national trail day
golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event

golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event

Part II: Kick Back

Giving back was already a prize on it's own, but the kick back was a treat! ;)

Part two of the day was an all-inclusive event for the volunteers at Fort Miley, with a breathless view overlooking Ocean Beach. The Aloha vibes were alive and well, and we really lucked out with the weather. This event was supposed to happen back in April but had to be rescheduled because Karl the Fog was playing us. This time around the weather was warm, yet breezy and so refreshing after a long morning in the sun. 

We walked into the event, and we were warmly greeted by Nemenzo's Te Fare dancers with happy smiles and we got lei'd!

golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event
golden gate national parks trails fun event
golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event
golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event

Nemenzo's Te Fare

The same dancers that greeted us walking in also kicked off the afternoon and put on a show. They performed several routines, both Hawaiian and Tahitian. In true luau nature, Nemenzo's Te Fare got all the volunteers out of their seats to join in. Anjuli and I somehow got roped into that and were brought on stage lol. 

golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event


The attendees worked up quite the appetite, and were all ready to grub. The food lineup did not disappoint. The spread was catered by ABC BBQ and included many fan favorites like Spam Musubi, Mac Salad and Kalua Pork and Pineapple Sliders. Additionally, my girls and I couldn't help but make extra trips back to the dessert bar, packed with Macadamia Nut cookies and Coconut Cupcakes. 

golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event
golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event

As I geared up to get on stage to co-host and announce the afternoon performances, I made sure to visit the Deep Eddy Vodka booth first. You know, just to loosen the nerves a bit.  Deep Eddy Vodka was pouring free lemonade cocktails, and was a perfect pairing to our ono Hawaiian eats. For the beer enthusiasts, Fort Point Beer was handing out some cold brews too. 

golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event
golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event
golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event gabe bondoc


The event soundtrack was full of favorites like J Boog, setting a laidback ambiance. If you saw on my IG stories, my girls and I sang our hearts out. To top it off, Gabe Bondoc came through for a live performance and headlined the event. The audience swooned. My co-host, Joyce, and I grew up listening to his music, so it was a pleasure to welcome him on stage. It was an intimate performance and I felt like we were all just hanging out rather than some concert. We listened to him sing a mix of his original songs from over the years with modern day favorites like Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You". 

golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event gabe bondoc


If the music and good eats weren't already enough to induce your FOMO, there were even more things to keep us all on our toes! From DIY Hats by REI to Lei making, temporary tattoos to lawn games; everyone there seemed to be living their best life.

golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event
golden gate national parks trails fun volunteer event


The Park Conservancy Events will happen throughout the summer and I hope to see you there! Each month, they will be hosting themed trail mixers in different park areas. Here's the links to the tickets!

If you can't make it to the monthly events, they all lead up to the season's Grand Finale. Don't miss NightHowl: The Park Conservancy's Annual Gala After Party. It's a festival style event that supports the parks! They haven't announced the location yet, but I can tell you now... it's iconic. That's all I'll say for now. I'll get you guys more information soon. 😉


FYI this isn't sponsored, just my nature-loving self who will always stand behind public land conservation... and of course, any good party that's worth recommending. Much love to the Parks Conservancy, National Park Service and all the event sponsors for pulling it off and putting this fun event together!


People of the Bay: Meet Osiris, HEAL Intern

The Bay Area is a place that will forever have my heart …but you know what makes it what it truly is? It’s people. Actually, that’s exactly what sparks my creativity. It’s others' energy. The interactions I have with those around me… especially with fellow bay natives from all walks of life.

What better way to share this story than in collaboration with Oakland Unified School District. Their student community is full of talented and creative next generation leaders, and they have given me an opportunity to connect with my new friend, Osiris.

Oakland Unified School District Youth Program HEAL Internship Healthcare

He’s a fellow foodie and current Senior at Oakland School of the Arts. Osiris is creative at heart with a soul for health care, sparked from his own personal experiences as a patient growing up. He’s finishing up the school year and heading to UC Davis this fall to study Pre-Med and Psychology. Additionally, he's a current Student Intern in Alameda Health System’s HEAL Program.

oakland unified school district bay area youth programs HEAL internship healthcare

The HEAL Internship Program

The HEAL internship program is a partnership between Oakland Unified School District, Alameda Health System, and the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. It was created to provide a pathway for middle school and high school students to break into the fast-growing healthcare sector. Through internships, students like Osiris gain hands-on experience in their local hospitals and shadow nurses and doctors. In addition to mentorship, the program provides the students with the skills and knowledge they need to blaze the trail in their future healthcare careers.

oakland unified school district youth programs HEAL internship healthcare

Catching Up with Osiris

Last week, I met up with Osiris for lunch in Oakland to chat and learn more about his passions, his ambitions and why the HEAL Program impacted his life. His words speak for themselves. After we finished our Chicken Tikka Masala bowls at Curry Up Now, we caught up more in-depth. Here’s a snippet from our conversation.

KD: Tell me a little bit about yourself!

OH: I’m Osiris. I’m 17. I’m someone who's really into different types of art since I was little. I used to do theater. I like to write. I like to draw. I’m also a huge reader and movie fan. I’ve got a huge range of movies I like. I grew up in Richmond, and have been going to school out here in Oakland since my mom works in the area.

KD: Very cool. I grew up in the Bay too! Sounds like you have a lot of different ways you love to be creative. If you could pick one medium for the rest of your life, what would you pick, and why?

OH: I think graphic design… because posters give an immediate reaction. Film, animation and other types of media are great too, but messages from those take a little bit longer to perceive. But with posters, you have such an immediate reaction to them and it’s so important in art...especially in political art… art that’s meant to tell stories. Graphic design does that the best and allows me to take on multiple projects at once.

KD: You were inspired by art at an early age right? Also, what are some other things that make you smile?

OH: Yeah, I grew up in an environment where art was supported and talked about a lot. Like, my uncle is 60 and still in a band. Art was always pushed as something that was good. It’s so interesting. When most people grow up and tell their parents “I want to be an Artist”, they say “No, you should become a doctor.” But my parents were the opposite. I told them, “I don’t want to be an artist, I want to be a doctor” and they were like “Whaaat?”

We laughed.

OH: Things that make me happy include spending time with my friends and family. When I’m in an environment that supports my interests, that generally makes me a happier person.

KD: My dad has told me similar things: to stay creative and never lose touch with art no matter what. That’s awesome that your family is encouraging and push you to continue doing that along the way. You’re right, it does feel empowering when you’re in a supportive environment. Now, your love for art also intersects with your passion to pursue healthcare!

bay area youth program oakland unified HEAL internship healthcare

KD: How did you hear about the HEAL Program?

OH: My mom works at Highland Hospital and she had a student come in to shadow her through the program. He was really cool. He was nice.  She knew I was interested in looking for health internships and health careers, so she told me about it. I did more research on it and talked to someone that did it. The HEAL Program has been around for a long time, they kinda revamped it. After that, I knew it was something I wanted to do, so I applied!

KD: Nice! So was the HEAL Program what inspired your deeper passion for healthcare?

OS: It was my own experiences dealing with doctors and surgeons from an early age. I had to get a couple surgeries and that was definitely was a factor. My mom is also in the health field, and I saw that. She is as a role model for someone who is in the medical field. Both of those played roles. I think that it interested me to work with pediatrics, and want to work with kids somehow.

KD: Did you have an AH-HA moment from the HEAL Program? A learning moment that made you realize you were in the right place?

OH: Yeah, definitely. I’ve done the HEAL Program for 2 years now. When I first started, I was in the Gastroenterology. That was my AH-HA moment for knowing I wanted to work in a hospital. That first department was one of my favorite departments because were so welcoming and nice. This year I’m in the OR, and I’ve been there all year. It’s so amazing.

I was able to see a neurosurgery 3-4 months ago, and got to be right next to the surgeon. He invited me back anytime I want. It was such a welcoming environment. That’s when I knew I wanted to do surgery.

KD: That’s awesome! You got to get into the scrubs and you’re already getting to see what it’s like inside an OR room. Sounds like HEAL is creating a pathway to see what it’s like, even before college. What’s your favorite part of the HEAL internship program?

OH: It’s changed. As an intern, I still get to go on rotation but I’m also a role model for the younger kids. I help teach the middle school students. That’s definitely my favorite part now, because I am a role model figure to a lot of the students and they’re all students of color. I think it’s really important. In my education system, I didn’t see a lot of black or people of color in the educational field. I think it’s important to have those role models for them.

Oakland Unified HEAL Internship Bay Area Youth Program Healthcare

KD: So we’ve touched the parts of the program you love. What about challenges? What’s a current barrier you’re going through towards success?

OH: I think the hardest part is juggling school and the program. I go three days a week, 2-6pm. I leave school early, so I’m not there for all my art time. I have to do my art assignments at home along with all my homework. I get home at 8:00pm it’s a lot to manage myself. Sometimes I wake up early to get the work done. It’s hard.

KD: It is hard, but it sounds like you’re doing a great job at it! Keep it up! Can you tell me more about your dreams and ambitions?

OH: I want to go into pre-med and become a pediatric surgeon. It’s kinda changed as I’m watching more surgeries but I want to specialize in pediatric neurosurgery. There aren’t many black neurosurgeons… and it’s really interesting. After watching a few neuro surgeries I definitely want to do that but while still working with kids. I want to continue doing some kind of social justice work as well. Like those that mentored me, I can take high school and middle school students in with me to see surgeries. I want to work at a teaching hospital cause I love the aspect of teaching others and I also want to continue doing art of some sort too.

KD: It’s so great that you see a path where all your passions and interests intersect. Last but not least, who or what ultimately inspires you?

OS: Giving back to the community. My community really inspires me to continue and working with middle school students motivated me to do more. It’s the next group of students that will come after me. I want them to have better than I did, so I think that’s been a huge motivator.

bay area youth programs HEAL internship health care oakland unified

Hanging out with Osiris sparked so many realizations. First, how much it reminded me of working with youth in the parks. It's been a few years, but when I spoke with Osiris, I felt oddly familiar and brought me back to memories from a very special time in my career. It’s essential that our communities create partnerships with local organizations. By doing so, we nurture a safe space for growth and build empowering pathways to help our next generation become future leaders, no matter what field they are pursuing.

To learn more about the HEAL Program and explore the stories of his peers visit Oakland Story Youth Bank.


Kitava, A Healthy Lunch in the Mission

kitava healthy food restaurant mission san francisco

Sunday mornings are usually for brunch, am I right? Instead of going straight to stuff our faces, Abbie and I have been using Sunday mornings to sweat it out and hang out over a good workout. This time, we went to Orange Theory Fitness and we were DEAD AF. We really needed some food to refuel and wanted to pick a place mindfully, even though we've got weak spots for mimosas. 

Along with fitness, we've been making mindful eating choices, and Abbie completed the Whole30 meal plan. For this week's Sunday eats, we needed to go somewhere that would accommodate that. We ended up at Kitava: a healthy eats restaurant that serves nutritious whole foods. And it tastes so good, you almost feel guilty about it. 

kitava healthy food restaurant mission san francisco

The small gluten-free restaurant is in the heart of the Mission and is right across the street from 16th Street Bart Station. Walk in and you'll be welcomed by minimal decor, natural elements and fun graphics on the walls. We went up to the main counter, ordered our food and sat at a table near the entrance. The staff was friendly and overall had a calm, relaxing vibe.

kitava healthy food restaurant mission san francisco
kitava healthy food restaurant mission san francisco

What we ordered:

  • Cuban Bowl: naturally sweet plantains, avocado, kale slaw, cilantro-garlic mojo sauce, white rice (or cauliflower rice) & beans (or extra kale slaw)
  • Butternut squash hummus with yucca chips
  • Fried Plantains: naturally sweet plantain slices sprinkled with sea salt, paired with chipotle aioli
  • Pinot Sage Kombucha
healthy eats san francisco mission district

Food with a purpose: Kitava's Food Philosophy

As we waited for our food something caught my eye. At our table, I saw a little card that talked more about their food philosophy. That's where I learned about where and how they sourced their ingredients: 

  • All the food is made from scratch
  • Kitava prides themselves in assuring the food is sourced consciously
  • They make sure to fill the dishes with veggies that are dense with nutrients. Bye bye iceberg lettuce! 
  • The meat they use are only grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken and pork, and wild-caught salmon
  • The recipes only incorporate naturally occurring fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and sustainably sourced palm oil. 
kitava healthy food restaurant mission san francisco
kitava healthy food restaurant mission san francisco
kitava healthy food restaurant mission san francisco

Everything we ordered was a customer favorite, and we could see why! All food was flavorful and filling. I don't know if it's just me, but sometimes I feel like veggie heavy meals just don't always cut it and I get hungry shortly after. I didn't have that issue with Kitava.

Also, I want to note the portion was generous. Even with the big bowl, the taste was so satisfying that it made me savor my bites anyways. 

I'm already thinking about the butternut squash hummus with yucca chips again. If I could take some of that home, I'd be snacking on it all day!

If you're looking for healthy nourishing food and find yourself in the Mission District, this is a spot you don't want to pass up. Hope you enjoy!

big bowl food healthy eats san francisco
kitava healthy eats san francisco