I had the privilege of joining other community members at a special surprise birthday party for Bobby Arias, founder of Communities in Schools, one recent Saturday. We got a call from Dan Rosales of Councilmember Richard Alarcon’s office, who invited me, my sister Alma Wade, and Joyce Gaynor to the event, held at the M.E.N.D. building on San Fernando Road. We know Bobby because of his volunteer work with us for Memorial Day at the historic Pioneer Cemetery in Sylmar every year.
There were a few hundred people there at the party to yell “Surprise, Bobby” when Bobby walked into the room, ready to do yet another gig-favor for a friend’s friend by being the M.C. at a 60th birthday party. Little did he know, the 60th birthday party was for him, arranged by Richard Alarcon and his staff to honor a true rock of the Valley.
Bobby Arias. I first met Bobby in 2005 during a health fair at a local school in Sylmar. My sister and I went to check it out; then-Councilman Alex Padilla’s aide Maggie Estrada had told us about it, and we wanted to support her outstanding efforts to bring more awareness to the Sylmar community.
Bobby was there in his D.J. capacity handling announcements and playing great music for the crowd. My sister and I had been thinking about getting some advice from a professional regarding what kind of sound equipment we needed at the Pioneer Cemetery for Memorial Day — our voices just couldn’t be heard over the traffic and open space at the corner of Bledsoe and Foothill in Sylmar.
My sister, Alma, said, “Let’s go talk to him,” pointing at the person in the baseball cap working the sound equipment that we came to know as Bobby. So we did. We waited for a break in the action, and then walked onto the stage to introduce ourselves and get advice. We explained that we wanted to buy some speakers and a microphone to put on our annual Memorial Day program and asked for his suggestions about what to buy. He obviously had the right equipment for the job. Bobby listened politely and intently to what we were saying, and then, without us even asking, said “Oh, I’ll do it for you.” We asked how much he charged, and he said, “Oh, I’ll do it for you, for free. I do events like that all the time.”
We were astounded at the offer, accepted, and immediately exchanged phone numbers. That’s the kind of guy Bobby is. And that’s why a few hundred people in the know showed up to honor, toast, and thank him for all his kindness and unending generosity.
Bobby has so given much of his free time — his precious life — to helping and bettering his community. The party was a fitting tribute to him, and it was a true honor for us to be able to participate in his special occasion.
Our birthday gift to Bobby was to present him, a cornerstone of so many events here in the Northeast Valley, with an engraved brick to be placed in the entrance of the Pioneer Cemetery. This long-lasting memento marks his place in Valley history, and will be a tangible record for all to see for years to come of his dedication to community service.
So next time you see Bobby, tell him “Thanks, Bobby.” He deserves it.
How about at Pioneer Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 31, 2010 at 11 a.m.?