Kayakers helped provide a set of virtual paddles to people facing cancer in the community, with last weekend’s King of the Salmon event in Hood River and on the White Salmon River.
As reported in the June 27 edition, the two-day event, sponsored Big Andrew Foundation and Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital Foundation, raised funds that will be used to provide healthful nutrition for Providence cancer patients.
First was the Green Truss kayak race on the White Salmon, followed by a day of clinics, fun races, music and food at Gorge Paddle Center on Nichols Basin.
Big Andrews was founded by Justin Knowles and his brother, Ian, and is named for Andrew Gmelch, the Knowles’ childhood friend from New England who died in 2007 of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Through Big Andrew’s support, Providence will provide Gorge Grown Veggie Rx vouchers to hospital patients, giving them access to locally grown food. Veggie Rx vouchers are issued by health providers to community members to exchange for fresh fruit and vegetables made available through farmers markets and grocery stores.
“It’s about whole, nutrient-rich food,” said Justin Knowles, “which is really important. Introducing Veggie Rx to hospital patients is a unique cause for any of our events.”
Providence’s Susan Frost said another goal is to bring Gorge Grown’s Mobile Market to the hospital as an assist to hospital patients, with the help of Big Andrew.
Frost said, “When we started talking about what they’re (the Knowles) passionate about, they talked about holistic healing and what we’re putting into our bodies and we started talking about things going on in our community and I told them about Veggie Rx.
“I’ve had a few times when we had a social worker who said, ‘I have a patient who is really having a hard time buying produce and fresh food.’ With Veggie Rx we can hook our providers up with vendors with vouchers to use all over town for fresh produce,” Frost said.
Big Andrew proceeds could be used in other ways, too, Frost said. “We also want to work with social workers on anything else we can provide as far as extra nutrition, counseling, cook books, things that are not covered by insurance but people can benefit from,” she said.
“The Knowles brothers are passionate about that, balancing with the nutrition ways that people feel supported. We are lucky to be working with them.”
This is the second year for King of the Salmon in the Gorge, but the seventh year and 12th total event Big Andrew Foundation has put on, including surf events, car shows and, now twice, King of the Salmon.
Justin Knowles explained, “We grew up surfing together so our first thought in honoring him was, ‘Let’s have a surf contest for Andrew,’ and after a great success did it again and again, and in our seventh year added our first Classic Car Show.” Last year King of the Salmon raised $3,000; the 2018 goal was $20,000.
“I went to the University of Oregon, and fell in love with the Northwest and the Gorge specifically and when Ian and I discussed opportunities of growth for the foundation, we brainstormed ideas. A group of friends I had, and knowing how much the kayaking community is based in the Northwest, we decided we should do kayaking. Through all this and working with Susan, everything has come together very well,” he said.
“It’s helping people in need who are just up the street, our neighbors who are getting treatment just up the hill,” he said of the Hood River hospital. “They need our help. It’s a cause everyone has a unique relationship with. In one way or another, everyone has their own connection to cancer.
“We’re here to remember them and honor them in Andrew’s name and the folks who aren’t with us today.”
Knowles said that within a month of Andrew’s death, their mother was diagnosed with lymphoma, a battle she is winning.
“She is doing well and healthy, and it took a lot out of her but she’s a strong lady and she has certainly found the value of life again,” Knowles said.
“She’s definitely pursued her passions even more.”