Bicyclist Carl Larson, a Brooklyn handyman who raised $2,105 last year for cancer research while pedaling in the Portland-area Lance Armstrong Livestrong Bike Ride, was aiming to double that amount in donations for the late-July event this year.
As THE BEE reported last year, Carl, a cancer victim himself, received encouragement from several Brooklyn neighbors at his morning coffee stop. This raised his spirits and gave him a positive outlook and goal.
Since then, Larson has chosen to live healthier, and dedicate his efforts to helping combat the disease. In July, neighbors organized a block party and raffle to help support his cause, demonstrating just how much one person with a vision can accomplish.
Brooklyn businessman Tom Shrader, owner of Shrader and Co., is a backer, and produced Larson's advertising poster. 'Carl's got quite an army behind him,' says Shrader. 'There's such a cross-section of folks who are willing to come out and support him. He's got this gift for bringing things together; people just can't say 'no' to him.'
Shrader and other supporters held an 'April Fool's Party' for the Brooklyn handyman at O'Connor's Restaurant earlier this year, raising $350 for Carl's July 30th ride.
'I get all choked up thinking about it,' says Shrader. 'It's a little bit like the finale of 'A Wonderful Life': if you ask for help from your neighbors, they'll come through.'
Come through they did, especially at the July 8th block party, held at the home of Charlene Bruihl, across the street from Winterhaven School. True Brew Coffee Shop donated coffee and pastries; the Semaphore Restaurant donated potato salad. Columbia Empire Meat Market donated meats for the event, and there were also donations from The Bear Paw, from a Seven-Eleven store in Oregon City, from neighborhood artists, and many others.
Carl Larson himself was 'chief cook and bottle-washer' at that event. Bruihl passed out posters, set up the grills, and decorated tables. Other neighbors supplied chairs, brought fruit, desserts and extras, and set up a fund-raising raffle. Shrader supplied sound and AV equipment for the evening's movie. Even Carl's union, UFCW 555, supported him at the event.
'I'll try to do this about the same time every year,' said Larson, flipping burgers and toasting buns at the grill. 'My health is better now since I'm charged up about the mission. I'm looking into organizing a 'bike rodeo' or bike safety program for kids at a future event, to give it a wider purpose.' Carl will be biking in his protective 'day-glo' shirt and helmet cover again this year, in the interests of safety.
Neighbors who planned the block party over six months say they are looking forward to doing the same each year. Dozens of supporters enjoyed pop, hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, and potluck extras at the event. 'I've been attending weekly training rides offered by LiveStrong to get in shape for the July 30 Ride,' noted Larson. 'This year the event is in both Multnomah and Clackamas Counties. We start out at Portland Meadows about 7 am. I'm planning on doing the 40-mile route again.'