Soft Spots

Community, including a girl with a bag of Beanie Babies, gathers up stuffed toy donations in memory of Dan Harada

Soft Spots

Community, including a girl with

a bag of Beanie Babies, gathers up stuffed toy donations in memory

of Dan Harada

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea

Gloria Needham, left, of TIP and Michelle Westfall of the Christmas Project.

Care to Help?

* Donations to the Harada toy collection are still being accepted at the District Office, 1011 Eugene St.

* To learn more about the Trauma Intervention Program, call Needham at 387-6814.

* Meanwhile, Hood River Christmas Project wraps up – literally – on Friday and Saturday at the Hood River Expo Center.

During November and early December, citizens and schools, business and community groups have been collecting items to brighten the holidays for some of their neighbors in Hood River County.

Toys and food will be packed up starting at 6 p.m. Friday at the Expo Center.

Drivers are needed to take baskets to senior citizens around the valley.

If you can drive, be at the Expo Center Saturday at 10 a.m., and coordinators will provide you with deliveries.

By KIRBY NEUMANN-REA

News editor

December 14, 2005

Filing cabinets turned into a toy chest at Hood River County School District offices last week.

A stuffy stampede — bears, dogs, penguins, unicorns, bats, bluebirds and many more — filled the top of the cabinet in superintendent Pat Evenson-Brady’s office.

Hood River Christmas Project and Trauma Intervention Program will share the toy trove, donated in the memory of Dan Harada, who worked as district food services coordinator for four years. Harada died Nov. 28 at age 51 after a brief battle with liver cancer.

“Dan’s impact reached far beyond the schools and this community,” Evenson-Brady said.

Harada loved stuffed toys, especially animals, so the District Office staff has been accepting toys and cash donations to purchase toys for the Hood River County Christmas Project and for the TIP volunteers.

Harada was a dedicated TIP volunteer for the Columbia Gorge Chapter as well as in Portland and Vancouver.

“He always made himself available for most any type of crisis call,” said TIP coordinator Gloria Needham. “His enthusiasm was contagious. Dan was also involved in many other types of volunteer programs. The spirit of giving seemed to run through his veins.

“I am not surprised that even in his passing he has found a way to give back to the community,” Needham said. “His physical presence will be missed but his spirit of giving will forever remain with our TIP team.”

Michelle Westfall echoed Needham’s thoughts.

“It shows how someone’s greatness can go on,” said Westfall, co-coordinator of the Hood River Christmas Project.

“These toy donations are a huge help for us,” Westfall said. She helped Evenson-Brady and May Street principal Dan Patton unwrap 30 or so Beanie Baby toys donated by fourth-grader Madison Bubb.

The gifts needed to be unwrapped for both the Project and TIP programs, so it gave the adults an enjoyable opportunity to unwrap and admire the fluffy menagerie given by Madison.

Evenson-Brady said Harada “was an amazing guy.”

“In the short time since his death, we have heard from his friends throughout our community and in several states, including Hawaii, offering condolences and helping to make sure that the district nutrition program keeps running smoothly,” she said.

Not only did he manage the administration of Food Service for the district smoothly from August 2002 until his hospitalization, he volunteered at nearly every food-related event in the county, according to Evenson-Brady.

“His heart was huge; his work ethic boundless,” she said. “As a TIP volunteer, he comforted the families of the community as they struggled with the death or injuries of loved ones.”

In a Memoriam distributed to all District employees, Evenson-Brady wrote:

“Whether it was a chili feed at May Street, a barbeque in Cascade Locks, a Habitat for Humanity house or a Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) event, Dan was there for all of us.

“He had been a volunteer firefighter and Scout leader. He accepted all kinds of assignments that had nothing to do with his job-including recording the minutes of Administrative Council. He organized all the food service work for the months of November and December so that the burden of his absence would not fall on his co-workers and so that the program would continue to run well.

“Dan did everything with a smile, a joke, enthusiasm, competence and self-effacing style. ‘Good enough’ was not in his vocabulary; he wanted everything to be the best that he could make it.

“The loss of Dan leaves a big hole in our hearts and our work; we will have to work hard to make up for his contributions.”

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