When Brian Koch met Chad Falk at Calvary in 2005, they clicked. These former jocks shared a love of sports. Through talking smack as competitors in slow pitch softball, Brian, the pitcher, developed a profound respect for Chad the shortstop, especially when he witnessed Chad’s off the field priorities – his God, his wife, then as they arrived, his growing family.
Chad, a superb athlete and standout hockey player in Canada, had learned to play through pain. So early in 2015 when his ribs throbbed, Chad dismissed it as a sports injury. Finally on a Monday in August, Chad had the pain in his chest checked out. That Thursday, the doctor told him the pain was a broken rib, fractured at a cancerous cyst. When Brian heard Chad had Stage 4 metastatic lung cancer, his first thought was, “I have to do something.” As a salesman, Brian also knew he could motivate people, and he had a highly motivating cause – a wonderful man with a young family and a terminal disease.
Brian also had a network of contacts. One of them, James Bolin, area director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, had an idea – to have local Viking player, Marcus Sherels, sign his jersey and raffle it. Marcus came to Rochester, signed the jersey, took a picture, and threw in a pair of the gloves used to hang on to footballs. The raffled items raised $1500.
John Deedrick, director of Great Deeds, wanted to do something for Chad’s children. John arranged to have the Great Deeds firetruck show up at Chad’s house and give Chad and the family a ride. Brian’s in-laws, Tim and Barb Ruopsa, followed the firetruck to the house to capture the moment in pictures. “Who would imagine a person showing up at someone’s house with a firetruck?” By the time Chad’s son, Ezra, and Brian’s sons, Ian and Carson rode into the driveway, sirens blazing, Tim and Barb were all in, determined to encourage others who wanted to help do something too. What neither anticipated was the burst of massive grace and energy that was about to explode.
The “do something” snowball was rolling. Century High School Athletic Director, Mark Kuisle, invited Chad and Brian and their boys to be guests on the sideline for the Century Football game against Faribault. Brian’s flag football assistant coach, Alex Jensen, suggested the Falks as the recipients for this year’s Christmas Anonymous fund raiser. Others heard about the Falks and stepped forward to help with time and donations. A signed poster of Adrian Peterson along with 40 other items screaming “Silent Auction!” were sitting in Brian’s spare bedroom by Halloween.
At first, Chad was hesitant when Brian suggested a silent auction on their behalf. But all that changed the moment Chad realized this event could be the ideal platform to love on people and share his faith. When Tim Ruopsa asked Brian how many items they should shoot for at a silent auction, Brian shot back, “Two hundred.” “Brian, you’re crazy,” was Tim’s response. But Tim remembered his thoughts that day the firetruck showed up at Chad’s house, “People just want to do something.” And people doing something together can be something extraordinary.
Between Halloween and the silent auction, Brian and Tim and other family members and volunteers simply told Chad’s story When Brian Koch learned that good friend, Chad Falk, had stage 4 cancer he knew he had to do something! Brian (along with his wife and in-laws) got busy requesting donations and spearheading a silent auction on Chad’s behalf. The results were amazing. The generosity and outpouring of love and support were overwhelming. Brian and Michele Koch Tim and Barb Ruopsa to individuals and businesses. As a salesman, Brian was used to asking for the sale. But for most of the others, this was a comfort-zone stretch. Tim stated, “I was simply stunned by the level of generosity of these businesses, and in looking back, I am more aware of how powerful generosity can be.” Over 80% did something, and a few went over-the-top. One of those was Kirk Gordon of Potbelly Sandwiches. When Kirk heard the story, he offered to give 20% of the proceeds of any day’s sales to the Falks. Brian picked the Tuesday of the week of the Fundraiser, knowing Tuesday was a slow restaurant day and not wanting to look pushy. Word was put out on Facebook, through an email to literally thousands of families connected with Rochester youth sports organizations, and through personal invitations of friends of the Falks. By 10:30 that Tuesday, so many people placed orders for food that they crashed the Potbelly’s website. Kirk had to stop taking orders by 11:00 a.m., with 26 pages of online orders, 15 orders to a page cued up to be made. By 2:00 p.m. Potbelly had exceeded all sales records for a day. Kirk offered to continue the fund raiser on Wednesday – which happened to be National Secretaries Day. Volunteers stepped forward to help Potbelly deliver that day. One of these delivery boys was the manager of a competing restaurant. Over $2400 came in for the Falks.
Local chef, Joe Karau, went over-the-top. Brian, a “no worries” kind of guy if you ever met one, was losing sleep over how to plan for and feed the 400 people he expected to show up. After hearing Chad’s story, Joe insisted he plan the menu, order the ingredients, prepare it and deliver it to Calvary at below cost. The $900 need was quickly donated by a local real estate agent couple who just wanted to do something to help.
On the morning of the silent auction at Calvary, volunteers moved the donations that had taken over the Koch’s and the Ruopsa’s homes to the Calvary gym. Eight volunteers spent the day creating baskets for the silent auction and displaying them. A dozen more came in the afternoon to do final preparations and to serve steaming hot food by Joe and his staff. From 5 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., between 400 and 500 people showed up at the silent auction, including 35 from Canada, to bid on items and eat and hear from the guest of honor, Chad. You can hear what he said on You Tube. Search for Falk Auction Speech. Donations including buy-it-now items far exceeded Brian’s goal of 200. The $28,500 raised that night was almost twice what Brian had hoped. And the generosity and love continues to flow for the Falks. Members of Chad’s mini-congregation have asked Chad and Kate for a to-do list for anything and everything they need done at their home or for their family needs. Others have provided a Florida timeshare as a family getaway.
St. Francis of Assissi said, “It is in giving we receive.” I don’t know if St. Francis ever talked smack on a softball field, but he knew something about the impact of sacrificial love between friends. In giving sacrificially of his time and energy to do something for his friend, Chad, Brian has been changed. “What’s important in my life has become clearer now. I’ve realized I can trust more in the people around me and I don’t have to run the whole show. It’s clear that God directs us and puts us in a place for times like these.”