It would make any Safeway customer do a double take — Canadian pop sensation Avril Lavigne, with her trademark black eye makeup, stick-straight blonde hair and diminutive frame, right there in the store, perched on a stool in front of the strawberry display.
She descended on the Bernal Avenue Tuesday afternoon, along with handfuls of squealy girl fans, to support Safeway's "Support for People with Disabilities" fundraising campaign, which has raised upwards of $130 million over 26 years for charities like Easter Seals, Special Olympics and other organizations that help people with disabilities live fuller, more independent lives.
Her appearance was supposed to be a secret — Safeway had guarded the information with press embargoes and the like. But word leaked out (thanks in part to an accidental 'oops' by Patch on Monday), though the crowd wasn't nearly what it would have been if Avril's coming had been promoted the way most celebrity cameos are.
And yet it all worked perfectly — enough of a crowd to yield that electricity thing you feel when you know something big is going down, and yet not so big that you couldn't see what was going on.
Lavigne, a super popular singer known for her edge and eight Grammy nominations, was there mostly as a treat for some of Safeway's employees with disabilities, and also to promote Safeway and Easter Seals, along with her own charity, Rockstar Club through the Avril Lavigne Foundation.
"I wanted to get involved with these amazing people here today," said Lavigne, whose head barely cleared the podium.
"I'm so excited — thank you to Easter Seals and Safeway for supporting my foundation."
When video footage of a singing Avril began to play on a giant screen, many of the employees, too excited to resist, sang along. "Hey, hey, you, you, I don't like your girlfriend..."
But before that, the real substance of the occasion:
Janise Scannell talked of the wonderful things the Easter Seals and Safeway have done for her 19-year-old daughter.
When she was diagnosed with Autism at three years old, Scannell said "life became a circus of interventions."
"You're not signing up for baseball teams or play groups, you're signing up for speech therapy, behavioral therapy — therapy, therapy, therapy. It is exhausting."
What was lost for her daughter was the sense of fun that children are supposed to have growing up — the human and social elements, being part of a group.
Then her daughter began going to Kaleidoscope, a Dublin-based organization funded by Easter Seals — a customized program for children with special needs, where kids play together and get the socialization they need, among other things.
"She runs into this program," Scannell said of her daughter.
She began to choke up.
"They high-five each other and then they take her off to play. We cannot teach her that. All the kids are happy there."
Others spoke as well — Safeway Executive Vice President Larree Renda, plus Easter Seals President James E. Williams, Jr., and Special Olympics President Brady Lum.
They talked about how tough it is to be a bagger at Safeway and how their special needs employees are among the most energetic and loyal in the organization.
"It's hard work, bagging groceries, isn't it?" said emcee Brian Murphy, KNBR Sports talk show host.
" Yeah!" yelled those in the crowd.
"And you put the eggs and bread on the bottom, right?"
Click the link to read a story Patch did on .
For the grand finale, Dwight Clark, a San Francisco 49ers legend who has been involved with Safeway and Easter Seals since the 1990s, competed in the celebrity food-bagging challenge with Lavigne.
Clark, with his years of experience at these events, won. Despite working fast, Lavigne lost, drowning in a sea of marshmallows and crackers and canned goods.
Then, the famous pair signed autographs for the employee honorees. Things were orderly. Nobody pushed.
Though Safeway does its fundraiser every April, this year it's bringing a new, exclusive video element.
Customers who donate $5 or more (by grabbing coupons placed throughout store aisles) receive a code to view exclusive videos of Avril on tour, behind the scenes, performing from her dressing room and visiting Easter Seals programs for kids with disabilities. There’s also an exclusive acoustic version of one of the singer’s most popular songs.