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Those were the glorious Panda years. We both cared so much about those furry friends it felt like our duty to help them, as they were in need of support. That does not surprise me in the slightest that Ari cared so much about those bears; defiantly sticking up for the underdog. I remember one of my intensest memories of my childhood with Ari was doing that Panda fundraiser downtown. We were so eager to go out into the world and make a difference and fight for something. Ari had character and passion and it showed in those early years! We served lemonade to strangers and put up our cardboard signs reading “Save the Pandas” and proudly told strangers of our cause. I remember distinctly that this homeless guy came up at one point and couldn’t quite make the 25 cent price, but Ari and I consulted and determined that he needed a good drink and we gave him two all the same. People asked us for facts about Pandas, and oh boy did we give them. They poop some ridiculous number of times a day (Ari’s personal favorite fact); they eat only bamboo; there were very few left in the wild; they have surprisingly close ancestry to raccoons; and when they are born they are only the size of a stick of butter. Looking through some old boxes I found appreciation papers from the Smithsonian foundation, along with a little cutout picture of Ari and I laughing. The way I snipped around the edges of it showed it clearly was of importance to me. It still is of great importance! That picture was from one of my birthday parties when my grandfather Rex came up and did his silly shows. Ari is sitting there with a joyous grin – a smile and a laugh that stayed with her forever.

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