United States 22 May: San Diego, CA

No more peace dreaming, peace building!!

We began the day with a great breakfast from our good friends at Jyoti-Bihanga Restaurant, who are most generously providing meals for the team throughout our time in San Diego. That is no joke- we eat a lot!
We were thrilled to be joined for the day by our good friend, Yolanda Holder, (pictured holding the torch), who completed the Self-Transcendence 3100 Mile Race last year for the first time, on her first attempt- race walking!!

Santiva started us off...

Here is the team being filmed running into the first school of the day, Central Elementary School.

We were honored that Ed Lenderman from KUSI News came out to cover the event. You can see the super inspiring story they put together here.

We received a super enthusiastic welcome!

First these kids sang for us...

Led by their teacher, Michael Stanley.

An Outstanding Achievement Award was presented to several selected children to recognise their contributions to peace. Pablo Morales was first up. He wrote "...I dream for a world of peace, where people can live a life of ease...where everyone can get their needs and have belief in their deeds."

Next was Angel Sanchez, who wrote "...If we work together, we can make a peaceful place for all..."

Alina Nguyen wrote PEACE
P- Peace is a gift you choose to have.
E- Every day you can turn the world around
A- A world without peace is always terrifying
C- Come together with harmony
E- Encoourage others to make the world a peaceful place.

Cynthia Olvera drew a tree...the words on the tree are love, honesty, caring, enjoy, polite, working together, happiness, respect and friendship...

Tina Luu wrote "...Peace is a gift that we can get, everyone can enjoy the feeling of peace..."

Kelly Gutierrez wrote "In my opinion peace really means love, respect and being nice. Peace means love...love for your family. Peace means respect...respect for your froends. Peace means being nice,,,nice to your friends, adults, and family."

The Torch Bearer Award was presented to Judy,(pictured), and Keith Meeker who established the Jarrett Meeker Foundation in 1987 in memory of their 8 year old son.
In the last 31 years, the foundation has provided once in a lifetime experiences to more than 100, 000 children from over 50 schools around the country- At Central Elementary this means a camp out for 3rd graders which over 1500 students have taken part in over the last 12 years!

The award was also presented to Michael Stanley, the Transitional Kindergarten Teacher who is so much more! He is dedicated to peace in many ways, one of them being the establishment of the school Peace Pole, which is a symbol of the children's pledges to peace. He also encourages the kids in many ways through music and performances and is on the School Site Council, Site Governance Team, PTA and many other committees. Thank you Michael!!

Yolanda having the kids guess which country she is from- USA of course!!

Singing the World Harmony Run Song!

Peace in the Heart

Kids demonstrating peace!

A big thank you to Central Elementary Principal, Elizabeth Castillo-Duval, and all the staff and children for a great welcome to San Diego!

Around 150 kids from Wilson Middle School came to Central and ran with us to their school, led by a group of Central Kids. So much fun!!

These are the kids from Central Elementary who ran with us. Thank you for your enthusiasm!!

We even had a super-friendly police escort!

We were given a super enthusiastic welcome at Wilson Middle School!

There was so much beautiful artwork all around the walls!

These talented kids sang for us to begin the program.

These kids were recognised for their beautiful artwork!

Some kids read out thier writings on peace.

These kids read extracts from their collaborative poster.

Time to guess where the team members are from...

Austria!

Czech Republic!

These kids bravely got up to demonstrate peace- thank you!

A big thank you to Wilson Middle School Principal, David Downey, for giving so much importance and value to the schools preparation for, and participation in our visit. We are so grateful and received much inspiration from our visit!

Our third school visit of the day was to Field Elementary School. The Principal, Amy Griffiths, was enthusiastically waiting to run the torch into the school!

The kids were eagerly waiting to greet us!

They had prepared all kinds of beautiful artwork!

We were surrounded by bright colours everywhere we looked!

Guess our countries...

Switzerland!

Bansidhar from Hawaii taught some kids the hula ;)

Everyone joined in on the actions- even the Local City Representatives!

Here are the winners of the Outstanding Achievement Award for their art or word projects:
John Pichardo, London Diaz, Camila Ortega, Kelly Lopez, Chloe Hochreiter, Anthony Moya, Aisha Candor, Autumn Irigoyen and Yestin Morris.

A big thank you to Joel Day, Executive Director of Boards & Commissions, Office of Mayor Kevin Falconer City of San Diego, and Robert Knudsen, Sr. Representative, Office of California State Assemblyman Brian Maienschein.
Both Representatives spoke very passionately and enthusiastically about the personal responsibility we all have towards cultivating peace in the world.

These two adorable children, who happen to be brother and sister, performed a super traditional dance for us!

You both gave us so much joy- thank you!!

Feel the peace!

Our good friend Stephen Groce, Chairman of Human Relations Commission for the City of San Diego presented the Torch Bearer Award to teacher Mar Loutzenhizer Cardenas.

Mar Loutzenhizer Cardenas received the award on behalf of her Peace Club Members.
Ms Loutzenhizer Cardenas was instrumental in orchestrating our visit and all the preparations that went into creating such a magnificent event. She has been involved with the Peace Run since 2006. Last year, she saw one of our team members in Tijuana, at the border wall and invited us to come to her school this year!

The Peace Club members who received the Torch Bearer Award along with Mar Loutzenhizer Cardenas are pictured above:
Alexander Carrasco, Angelica Valdez, Anthony Moya, Atiana Aguilar, Brianna Jimenez, Chloe Hochreiter, Dario Groce, Eduardo Lopez, Elizabeth Rios Blanco, Emanuel Patzan, Fernando Alva, Gabriela Maldonado, Jailyn Jacobo-Ochoa, Jaquelin Asencio-Jimenez, Kayla White, Kevin Mozo and Zamara D'gives.

The next big surprise was the unveiling of a Peace Pole gifted to the school by Ms Loutzenhizer Cardenas. It was wrapped in several layers, which made the unveiling a lot of fun!

A big big thank you to Principal, Amy Griffiths, and all the teachers, children and parents for so enthusiastically spreading peace!!

Time to run!!

Our last event of the day was a Torch-Bearer Award Ceremony at the local Peace Garden in Normal Heights, which happens to be the home of a Statue of Peace Run Founder, Sri Chinmoy.

The Torch Bearer Award recognises and honors people from all walks of life who embody the message that world peace starts on an individual level in a way that makes the world a better place, and shines as an example for us all to strive for!

Singing the Peace Run Song

Our deepest gratitude to Marilyn Cooper Ongley who most humbly and generously donated this space of land as a Peace Garden.

The first recipients of the Community Torch Bearer Award were Donna and Edwin Gookin.
Now in their 80’s, Donna and Edwin have been running for decades and are still active. Donna is a pioneer in women’s running and fitness in the San Diego community, having been one of the first women to participate in track and distance events. Everywhere they go, people say, “I want to run like you when I’m your age.”

Congratulations and gratitude to Donna and Edwin!

The second recipients were Cheryl and Brian Hile.
Having completed dozens of marathons between them, they now work together to organize and inspire people with health challenges to keep their bodies active and their minds hopeful.
Cheryl was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006 and last year became the first person with MS to run “7 Marathons on 7 Continents” in a single year.
Congratulations to both of you, and all our gratitude for your goodness and dedication!

The recipient of the International Dignitary Torch Bearer Award was the great and good Meb Keflezighi.
Meb is one of the most decorated champions and most popular athletes in the history of American distance running. He’s an Olympic medalist, winner of both the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon, with multiple other strong finishes in elite marathon racing. Meb is now retired and focuses on giving back to the running community in various ways through charity work and his own MEB Foundation.
We were deeply honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to meet Meb and offer him the Torch-Bearer Award!

Meb's whole family, who are also very nice, came for the occasion. Here he is pictured with his wife, Yordanos, and their three daughters Sara, Fiyori, and Yohana.

Time to sing the "Congratulation" song by Sri Chinmoy.

All the great runner-recipients!

Meb with three of our team members, Grahak, Yolanda and Harita, who have completed the 3100 Mile Race.

Vasudha Deming, pictured here with Meb, organised the event today and has been a big fan of Meb for many years, She was thrilled to meet him and have the chance to honor his lifetime of running inspiration and peace dedication.

Meb with the team!

When my heart,
My heart's eagerness
And I
Run fast along
The road of life,
Peace proudly runs with us.
-Sri Chinmoy

The day ended with a fabulous meal for everyone at Jyoti-Bihanga Restaurant. Many of the staff members are also big fans of Meb! What a perfect end to a day filled with inspiration, happiness and Oneness-Family Peace!!!

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