Portland is a welcoming city. Trendy and modern 20-somethings ride newly-painted Schwinns from the 1980’s or drive their 1990’s Subarus. The males of the Portland species often sport impressively-tended beards and sleeves of tattoos, perhaps to impress the female Portlander who wears round-frame glasses, a wide-brimmed felt hat, and boots of worn leather that appear to be from a thrift store but were bought downtown for more than their 1990’s Subaru. Stereotypes aside, its people are friendly and still look each other in the eye in passing, something lost in many large cities.
We connected in Portland with Nate’s younger brother, Lee, who welcomed the three of us into his charming little apartment east of the Willamette River that cuts through the city. We decided to spend our first morning in the city driving to check out some places around town. As we cut across the city, we noticed a young boy on the sidewalk waving to each car that passed. He didn’t miss one! Cars from this direction? Wave. Cars from that direction? Wave. Cars from both directions? Double wave.
The boy sat behind a small table with handwritten tagboard signs on each side. We couldn’t read them from the street as we passed but decided to return to listen to the boy’s story. As we looped back around and received yet another wave, we noticed a small baseball bat, glove, and batter’s helmet propped against his table with a cooler sitting alongside.
He continued waving and smiling to car after car on the busy street in front of him. As we approached the boy, he greeted us and offered some lemonade. We looked at the two tagboard signs written (in what we assumed was his handwriting) that read, “Help Gus Get to Williamsport” and “Williamsport or Bust.” The boy introduced himself as Gus and informed us of his hopes to get to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to see theLittle League World Series this Friday. When we asked how much he hoped to raise, he told us $400 was his goal. “How close are you to that goal?” Nate asked. “Well, I got some birthday money too, so I need about $100 more.” Gus replied. We were impressed by his idea to get out on the streets to raise money for his fundraising goal and that he was using his own birthday money to get to the games he so wanted to see. We ordered up some pink lemonade, and Gus even offered us some York Peppermint Patties he had in his cooler.
We sat chatting with a friendly Gus who explained a little about the Little League World Series. As we ordered up another glass of lemonade, we handed Gus the remainder of his fundraising goal saying, “Gus, we hope this helps you get to those baseball games.” His eyes lit up as he held the bill in his hands. “Thanks!” he said. If he tried to hold back his excitement, it still showed through. He had met his goal and would be on his way to Pennsylvania in less than a week!
We wished Gus well, and returned to the car still observing him from a distance. Gus called across the street to his father who walked up to his lemonade stand. As he approached, Gus held something hidden behind his back. His father got closer and they exchanged some words and suddenly, Gus flashed his hands to the front showing his dad the donation he had just received. His dad looked just as astonished and excited, and we couldn’t have felt happier ourselves! We drove past one more time to Gus’ signature wave as he yelled a loud “thank you” to our passing car.
The story didn’t stop there, however. When we returned to the apartment later that evening, we checked our Instagram account and noticed a new message from someone named Jack. He posted a photo holding a $100 bill with the message: “You gave my brother a $100 tip at his lemonade stand and he hasn’t stopped talking about it! You put a smile on his face. I looked up your project and my family and I think it is so amazing what you guys are doing. Keep it up!! And thank you for helping him get to the Little League World Series!!”
Help someone fulfill a dream! #ProjectWildness
To Taylor W… When we first saw you after our first trip, you shared with us what these stories from the road had meant to you. That was one of the most impactful conversations we have had with any of our supporters. You shared that you had felt inspired because of this and that this project had opened up your eyes to how interconnected we all are in all we do. Over the years, you have been a sports fan, player, and supporter, and today you shared that passion with a young boy from Portland, OR. Thanks to your support, he will be sitting in the stands watching some of his favorite teams face off. Not only did you make Gus’ day and trip, but your impact stretched across into his family and into his brother’s life as well. Today you made a lasting impact in a young person’s life and helped him fulfill a dream. You’re a great guy, Taylor. Keep up that positive attitude, and we look forward to chatting with you soon.