It’s one of San Quentin’s favorite events, featuring hot dogs and music. They call it “Hot Dog Day,” with free entertainment provided by the volunteer Hitland group.
At 8:30 on a chilly morning, the Hitland crew and inmate helpers prayed over the food before serving hundreds of anxiously awaiting inmates. Residents of H-Unit and North Block danced and applauded as the live entertainment performed. The taste of entertainment extended from Christian rap to poetry.
Hitland leader Brad “Doc” Walker promotes the aim of breaking down barriers and raising awareness about the love of God. Volunteer Kirk Lang helped set up the stage, noting that he and “Doc” became friends when their children performed in school plays together.
Lang also works with the Grave Robbers theatrical group, which includes several churches in chapel performances.
Other Hitland volunteers included Walker’s son, Kyle Walker, Tommy Brown, Al Chavez, Lorraine Nadeau, Andrea Brown, Marya Morgan, and Kindra Ponzio.
Kyle Walker stated that he grew up around the Hitland environment and participates in the Grave Robbers also. “It is a family thing and every week is like a carnival when we set up for these types of events,” he said. “God hasn’t opened the door to the women prison yet, but it’s just a matter of time.”
Andrea Brown, who is going to school to become a dental hygienist, has been with Hitland for seven years. She said that the first time she came into San Quentin “was scary.” But when she left that day, she said she was in tears because she was overwhelmed with so much joy and happiness.
Lorraine Nadeau is also involved in Grave Robbers and other programs, such as the Pregnant Council Center in her area. She said San Quentin was a scary place when she first came in 1978, “but the love for Christ” brought her back.
Marya Morgan and Kindra Ponzio works for K-LOVE-FM Radio 107.3, a Christian rock station that has many programs. Morgan, the public affairs director, said this was her first time to San Quentin. She helps former prisoners at Big Bob’s Burger Joint in Arkansas enter back into society
“With each visit to San Quentin, I’m more convinced of the triumph of the human spirit,” Morgan said. “The men I’ve met are truly amazing in their response to self-help opportunities. I hope to inspire K-LOVE listeners to break into prison, to get past the stereotypes, to care about a man’s human potential, even if his crimes earned him a life sentence. Valuing a convict, investing in him: this is what Jesus meant when He said, ‘I was in prison, and you visited me.’”
Kindra Ponzio active in a group called Youth for Christ, which helps girls in Fresno juvenile hall become positive examples for other young girls. This was her third time at Hot Dog Day and fifth time in S.Q., including her participation in the Grave Robbers.
Ponzio stated, “I am always in awe and honored to be able to come in behind the doors of the Q. With all the programs these guys go through, and the energy they put into becoming better human beings, is amazing. So many of these men are here for a long time– many for life. But it is humbling to see how much they want to become the best that they can be even though they are here. Their goals much of the time is to influence the younger ones whose visit may be shorter. There is so much positive mentorship that is surprising, given the location. If we could figure out a way to give these guys the same mentorship outside, there would be less of a need for it inside. I am honored to meet these gentle men and call them friends.”
Allen Boxall commented, “I found it inspirational to come meet some of the men at San Quentin and see their hearts, hear their stories and witness a transformed human sharing how they have come to this place. It has been an honor to be able to visit here and meet these men, and to learn about how they find opportunities to learn about their mistakes and how they hope to help others avoid the path they went down.”