140 year of Shriners

140 year of Shriners

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pedaling for Presents

(Photo By Pico Van Houtryve/THE PRESS-TRIBUNE) Mike Brown of Granite Bay navigates his way through the toys he collected in response his 400-mile trek to his Los Angeles office.With contributions still coming in, the WALK for charity has netted more than $5,000 and lots of toys and other items for the hospitalized youngsters.

Pedaling for presents
Granite Bay man takes 400-mile bike ride for charity

By: Bob Magnetti, The Press-Tribune www.granitebaypt.com/articles/2007/12/15/news/top_stories/04brown.txt
Tuesday, December 18, 2007

For Granite Bay resident Mike Brown, 2007 was a landmark year - one in which he celebrated his 50th birthday, his 25th wedding anniversary and took a long walk-bike ride to his office for charity.

That last event might not seem memorable, but Brown's office is located about 400 miles away - just north of Los Angeles.

"I woke up Monday morning (Nov. 19) and felt I had to do something," Brown said of his spontaneous decision. "I told my wife, Patti, that I was going to walk to the office. She thought I was crazy, but she knows that when I decide to do something, I do it. So she went along (with the idea)."

The goal was to raise funds for the UC Davis Children's Hospital, affiliated with the Children's Miracle Network, and the Northern California Shriners Hospitals for Children.

"I'm the type of person that feeds off the giving," Brown said. "I'm a feel-good person and just needed to do something (to help others)."

"It's just tremendous, what's he's done," said Catherine Curran, public information officer for the Shriners Hospitals. "He has raised a tremendous amount of public awareness. Mike Brown just epitomizes the spirit of giving."

Brown's company, PAX, make labels and tags for apparel. A native of Chicago, he came to California in 1980 and settled in Los Angeles, where he was working as sales manager for the Los Angeles Clippers pro basketball team.

Brown and his family moved to Granite Bay a little more than six years ago. The couple has three daughters, Heather, 24, Courtney, 18, and Mackenzie, 7.

Starting off on his long trek, Brown took nothing with him but the clothes he was wearing. Walking out of Granite Bay, Brown spotted a shiny quarter along the street and picked it up, vowing to turn over all the coins found along the way as part of his contribution. The pennies and nickels found outside of Granite Bay amounted to $1.19. "I took nothing with me. I adjusted as I went. I didn't even have good walking shoes," he said. Making his way to Elk Grove on the first day, he found his feet were so blistered and sore and swollen, he knew there was no way he could continue walking.

Brown stopped in a small coffee shop and told some of the customers of his journey. A waitress there commented she had planned a similar journey by bicycle with a church group, but never made it.

"It was like a light going off," Brown said. "I asked where I could by a bike and they sent me to a nearby Wal-Mart. I saw a Schwin bike hanging there and said, 'That's the one; that's the one I want.

"I also went and bought a change of clothes, good walking shoes and lots and lots of Epsom Salts for my sore feet," he said.

Naming his journey WALK - We All Love Kids - Brown experienced the "real" people of California as his route along country roads paralleled Highway 99.

"I rode about 500 miles to travel 400 miles," he said.

"Going through all those little towns," Brown said, "gives you a whole new outlook on people."

He cited the kindliness of the many people with whom he came in contact on his journey.

His first flat tire - one of four along the way - came outside of Lodi. The bike shop, when they found out the reason for the ride, fixed the tire for free. The next day was Thanksgiving, and Brown's family joined him for dinner at a fine restaurant. That made the day a very special one.

A second flat near Turlock necessitated a taxi ride back to Modesto at a cost to Brown of $37 dollars, paid up front. On the trip back, Brown told his story to the driver and when they reached their Turlock destination, the driver said, "Just give me $10 for the gas." A woman in Fresno saw Brown stop and pick up a penny from along the roadside, called him over to her car parked in front of a church.

After hearing of his journey, she gave him money, took his hands and said, "Would you pray with me?"

"That was easily a 10- or 15-minute prayer," Brown said.

One of the most emotional moments along the way came when Brown met a grandmother who had tried for months to get help for her seriously ill granddaughter, only to be turned away by the public agencies.

Brown contacted UCD Children's Hospital and that evening received a call back from the hospital, saying "Don't worry. We're working on it." And they took care of it, he said.

The hotel in Merced in which Brown was staying raised $21 from guests just by putting a collection can in the lobby overnight.

The worst part of the trip - dogs - came between Chowchilla and Delano.

"There's nothing but isolated farms along there," Brown said. "The dogs just seem to line up along the road. You spot a dog coming out of a yard, you just peddle as fast as you can."

Brown's journey ended at his office on Dec. 3, as his staff had a big spread waiting for him.

Even his youngest daughter, Mackenzie, got into the act. She approached Peter Towne, principal at her Greenhills Elementary School, to allow a booth outside the entry to a school function. The booth for charity raised $165.

Brown, an avid Chicago Bears and White Sox fan, said he won't do another bike ride again, but would like to do something creative annually. Brown's newest endeavor is Capitol Dawg, an old-fashioned hot dog stand in midtown Sacramento that will open soon.

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