Every day, non-profit organizations around the country depend on volunteers to carry out their missions, from after-school programs to health clinics, neighborhood watch groups to food drives. In fact, over a quarter of Americans volunteer for at least one group in a given year. That’s a great start, but we think that we can do even better, in part by helping make sure that busy workers are able to take the time they need to give back.
As part of our Ticketfly Causes initiative, Ticketfly is proud to team up with organizations like HeadCount and Sweet Relief Musicians’ Cancer Fund, and to support our full-time employees in taking up to three VTO (volunteer time off) days per year for the cause of their choice. Here’s the story of how Brandy Hartley, Senior Manager of Product and Client Marketing, spent a recent volunteer day in Yosemite National Park.
Brandy’s Story: Volunteering for the National Park Service
This past weekend, I returned to Yosemite National Park for the start of this year’s volunteer season, which kicked off on Earth Day (April 20th). As I am writing this, Arbor Day has just passed on Saturday! This resonates with me since forests remind me so much of my grandfather, Robert Coleman Beam. My grandfather lived a life of service to his family, his community, and his country. This quiet man’s well-read copy of “Meditations” by the Roman Stoic Marcus Aurelius was passed on to me after his death and continues to influence me. After he returned from serving in World War II, he worked as an arborist and forest ranger in the U.S. Forest Service. As a child, we would hike while he showed me how to spot a beaver’s teeth marks and snapped black birch twigs so I could smell natural wintergreen. These memories stand out so vividly compared to others from my suburban upbringing.
My first volunteer experience in Yosemite was in August 2012. A friend told me about a group of Bay Area rock climbers who volunteer ten weekends a year between April and November. I signed up on the PGVIP website for my first adventure. Entering Yosemite, I found myself in a tunnel of trees – Ponderosa Pine, Red Fir, and towering Douglas Fir. I’ve seen as many Ansel Adams photos as the next nature geek, but I was completely unprepared for my first view of the Yosemite Valley as I came out of one of the tunnels through the mountains. I pulled over and leapt out of the car and just gawked at the sight of the epic granite cliffs.
Since then, it fills me with great happiness to work with a community of people committed to preserving and maintaining this national treasure. We range in age from 20s to 50s and have different professions and life experiences. Our volunteers originate from all over the world, and we join around the campfire each night. We are lucky to work with veteran Park Ranger Ken Stowell on everything from building playgrounds, doing trail maintenance, to shoveling ash at campsites. We work together on whatever projects come our way, so if you see us walking in our neon orange or yellow vests, please say hello!
The bonus? After our hard work is done, we get to wander the park and hike, rock climb, or relax by the river! This past weekend, I lounged on a granite boulder by the Merced River, and ruminated on nature’s impact on me. Collectively, how we live impacts the snowpack in the Sierras, the volume of water in the spring river, and the lives of all that depend on it. Seneca, the Roman Stoic said, “All things human are short-lived and perishable” (To Marcia, On Consolation, xxi, 1). While this may seem morbid on its face, it brings me perspective and tranquility.
In the midst of majestic granite walls and cascades of rushing water, I witnessed the small thrills of life – watching ants going to and fro on the edge of the boulder, the male sagebrush lizard doing mating pushups, a spider spinning its web with glinting silk strands. This reminds me that we are all small beings that are part of something incomprehensibly grand, and that while I can’t control what we do collectively as a species, I can choose how to honor this life with my heart and my hands.