Of the Baker City Herald

Students at Baker High School celebrated the last day of school before the spring break on Friday by celebrating the memory of a special young man, Brian Sorensen.

The third annual Brian Sorensen Car Rally andamp; Cruise saw a number of entries, not only from students and staff of the high school but also some from the community as well.

Brian graduated from BHS in 2000 and succumbed to Ewings sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, on June 30, 2000. Brians personal pride and joy was a 1972 Chevy Nova two-door fast back that he bought and lovingly restored. As his illness progressed he was forced to sell the car because he could no longer work on it.

The event was supported by Lew Brothers Les Schwab Tires. Chris Elwood of Lew Brothers was on hand with his own entry and handed out free t-shirts to all participants.

Its a time for kids to get together to show off their rigs and the money and effort they have in them, said Elwood, only 20 himself.

Many participants demonstrated a great deal of knowledge about cars in general during the show. Jeramy Kellogg, 16, commented about one pickup that was competing for Loudest Exhaust that the owner had too much air going in the motor, its going to blow up.

My uncle is really into them (cars), he added. I learned to drive when I was eight years old.

One hard fought competition was in the Least Desirable category. There were a number of entries from 16-year-old Bryan Conklins 1989 Nissen pickup with no engine (Its a real economy model, very good gas mileage,) to Joe Bouchards 1963 Ford pickup.

The dull orange and white pickup is a farm truck, Joe, 19, said. There is no bed in the back, just metal straps where the floorboards would be attached. A red dog collar accessorizes the back end.

Probably the most exotic auto entry was brought in by Seth Davis, 17, son of James E. Davis, a Baker City ophthalmologist (the vanity license plate reads 4U2C MD).

The deep red Mercedes Kompressor sports car had a special device that plays music when the horn is blown. The car even imitated an ice cream truck for a few minutes. Many young boys and girls gathered around the vehicle driven by Seth and his friend Lloyd Pierce, 15.

Sharon Defrees of the BHS staff and adviser to the student rally said the event was a success.

It was great having community involvement this year, she said about the small number of community entries in the show.

The four community cars were last minute entries, said John Clarke, whose 1940 Ford V-8 rested proudly at the end of the short row of cars.

We only found out about this show this morning Clarke said. They called around and got about four entries together and came down to support the students. He and his fellow senior car club enthusiasts promise greater participation in any future rallies if they are notified in time.

Benefit for Ronald McDonald House

Proceeds from the event will go to the Ronald McDonald House in Boise. Brian and his family often stayed there while he received treatment at the nearby Mountain States Tumor Institute.

We remember Brian and his family, said Mindy Plumlee, executive director of the facility located on Warm Springs Avenue. Plumlee was especially pleased to learn about the donation to the non-profit House.

We served 385 families in 2001 from outside Ada County whose children received care at MSTI, St. Lukes, St. Alphonsus and other medical centers in Boise, she said. Weve been so busy weve added another seven bedrooms and a second kitchen area to our House.

The volunteer and paid staff of Ronald McDonald House welcome families and provide them a place to stay and eat while they are away from home. The kitchen and pantry are well stocked with food, Plumlee said, and everyone looks forward to Tuesdays, when volunteers bring in fresh, homemade cookies.

The cookie jar is always full here, Plumlee said.

The residents and staff also provide much needed support to the families during their stays. Families are asked for a donation of $10 per night during their stays, but Plumlee said no one would be turned away and payment was entirely voluntary. She said most families have severe financial hardships when their children were being treated for life-threatening illnesses.

Its really hard for them to pay for care, especially if they dont have insurance. Theres transportation and other expenses. We just try to help them with lodging and food, Plumlee said.

Special connection

Two car rally participants have special memories of the House themselves. Howard and Sandy Payton stayed at the facility for more than a month in 1989 when their 20-year-old son, Bill, battled cancer. Sadly, Bill too, succumbed to the disease.

Its a great idea, Howard said of the car rally in which he entered his 1957 Chevy. They (the students) just need a little direction. He and Sandy are very supportive of the students efforts to raise money for the House.

Another supporter of the efforts was Jodi Sorensen, Brians mother.

Its really nice that the schools students still remember Brian. He was just such an up kid. He attended school and worked so hard to graduate even though he knew he was dying. They would look at him and know he was in pain, hurting, and still attending classes and working for his diploma. He was an inspiration to them. He never complained or whined about it.

Brians sister, Lanae, now 19, was also at the rally. She is now a student at Washington State University.

Jodi Sorensen said she believed the Baker High students learned valuable lessons from Brian.

The Brian Sorensen Car Rally and Cruise, with its playful categories of Worst Paint Job and Least Desirable Vehicle, try to demonstrate the love of life and enjoyment that Brian showed the world.

And student efforts to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House, demonstrate they understand the need for a community and its members to support one another.