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Preview: ‘Tis the Season

The Guardsmen Tree Lot, Santa Skivvies Challenge

O Christmas Tree

The Guardsmen tradition lives on at Fort Mason, thanks to teamwork — and PPE.

By Jennifer Blot

The scent of pine mixed with Purell will be the official holiday fragrance of the Guardsmen’s annual tree lot at Fort Mason — and that’s a good thing. “COVID-19 has required us to cancel or postpone many of our traditional fundraising events, but we are thrilled that our time-honored tradition will be happening again in 2020,” says Guardsmen president Thomas McKinley. Yes, there will be some inevitable updates to the tradition, but the emporium of trees big and small is as spectacular as ever — and each comes with a custom 2020 ornament to commemorate a year we’re not likely to forget. Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Bay, the Guardsmen tree lot long ago forged a reputation as “the” place to be during the month of December, with its buzzing hub of holiday cheer and camaraderie. The jam-packed parties won’t be happening this year, but those seeking a celebratory beverage can buy libations to-go, including a bottle of the Guardsmen’s own special holiday red blend.

Cal Escue, designated PPE coordinator for the tree lot, shares a few things visitors can expect: first, a generous spritz of Purell hand sanitizer and physically distanced shopping monitored by what Escue calls an “old-school counter” at the entrance to ensure a maximum of 50 shoppers at a time; a scannable QR code with a menu of offerings (from tiny 2- to 4-foot-tall “Charlie Browns” to 14-foot stunners); plus photo ops and reindeer sightings. And we’ll just have to imagine those smiles on the faces of Guardsmen: They’ll be in masks and safety glasses. For visitors who want a touch-free shopping experience, there’s an option to preorder and queue up at the drive-thru and let the Guardsmen team do the heavy lifting (and tying). The Guardsmen, a 501(c)3 founded in 1947, puts its 150 members to work during the month of December — on top of their day jobs in professions ranging from law and medicine to real estate and marketing.

But the outcome is well worth it. Each year, money generated from sales from the tree lot is used to help thousands of at-risk Bay Area kids through the Guardsmen’s local scholarships and summer camp programs in Mendocino and the Russian River. Last year, tree sales totaled $1.2 million.

“In a year that has been challenging in so many ways, this group has rallied together for a common good,” says tree lot chair Kyle McKenzie. “Our goal is to bring as much Christmas spirit to the community as possible and provide something to look forward to.”

Cool Runnings

SFAF’s Santa Skivvies Run Goes Virtual 

by NHG Staff

Photo courtesy of SFAF

Their feats of world salvation notwithstanding, superheroes have long been derided for plying their heroic trade in their underwear. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Superman.) Then again, maybe they’re onto something? With that in mind, the San Francisco Aids Foundation is supplying eager supporters with festive briefs for a virtual journey to the North Pole.

Participants in this year’s “Santa Skivvies Challenge” are free to run, cycle, hike, walk, swim, skate or otherwise locomote in the name of AIDS awareness and health justice. Participants’ mileage is pooled with the ultimate goal of reaching 2,122 miles – the distance from San Francisco to the North Pole – by December 13.

The DIY underwear fun run takes the place of SFAF’s traditional one-mile holiday run and Santa Party, which has  (unsurprisingly) been canceled due to COVID-19. Now virtual in its 12th year, the Santa Skivvies Run has raised well over $500,000 to support the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s important work since its inception.

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