Evan Connell finds fun, creative way to fund charities

by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Like father, like daughter. Just 15 years old, Carolyn Connell is already following in the steps of her father, Evan Connell, by helping him prepare for his charity parties.

Turning 40 is usually not the greatest milestone in a person’s life. It means, beyond all doubt, that you are getting older.

But turning 40 turned out to be the greatest thing in the life of Evan Connell of West Linn, and because of it he has helped make many lives much better.

This is the 10th anniversary for Connell’s Big Bash, a big party that raises big dollars for charitable organizations in Oregon.

His formula is simple. He throws a party that makes party-goers think they have stumbled into party paradise. At the same time, the party-goers do a lot of good for humankind, especially kids. Now, with his new organization, Party for a Purpose, Connell will send the giving-fundraising meter to new heights.

Rarely have do-gooders provided such fun. If P.T Barnum had been in the charity business he would have been Evan Connell. Think of people in formal wear chasing pigs and you have a good idea of what the Big Bash is like.

“Doing this is a lot easier and more fun than people realize,” Connell said. “They can have all of this fun and have everything go to the good.”

Surprisingly, his idea for the Big Bash came about in rather moribund fashion. Faced with the grim prospect of turning 40 in 2003, Connell and his friends began thinking about how to “celebrate” this event.

“I had no idea,” Connell said.

However, a buddy reminded him of his party animal days at the University of Oregon (“You had amazing parties”) and recommended that he come up with a party theme to celebrate himself, like a barn dance. Then Connell had an afterthought: Why not do it as a charity?

“I talked to a charity,” he said. “They said, ‘Uh, I guess so.’”

This was not the bombastic reaction Connell was hoping for. But the charity did a 180-degree turn on enthusiasm when the party, which he soon christened the Big Bash, raised $35,000. Over the past decade the Bashers brought in by Connell have brought in $1.4 million for charity, and he plans to do it again on Oct. 5 in Aurora. This year the party lineup does not include pig races, but it has everything else, like dancing horses on platforms. These talented equines will even do some break dancing. There will also be a barbecue dinner, a live auction, rodeo, dancing, casino and music at Lonestar Ranch.

This fun will result in money for four charitable organizations: the Candlelighters for Children with Cancer, Children’s Cancer Association, Good Deeds and Trillium Family Services.

“I’ve known Evan for 13 years,” said Nicole Budden, owner of Happy Trails Riding Center of West Linn. “Evan is a great soul. He just wants to help people.”

For this year’s Bash, Connell is adding something extra. As a warmup event he will host children and families of the Candlelighters on Saturday at Happy Trails Riding Center for a day of horseback riding, barbecue and music.

“I feel very fortunate that Evan has chosen Candlelighters for Children with Cancer as a recipient charity,” said Janet Sams, executive director for Candlelighters. “What is so heartwarming about Evan is that he not only is allowing us to be part of this wonderful event, but he is taking it a step further by organizing a family activity for the children and families who call on Candlelighters for support. Evan wanted to go the extra mile.”

Connell is even grooming his successor. His 15-year-old daughter, Carolyn, will serve as host at Saturday’s event, where she will be joined by her soccer-playing pals.

“I’ve wanted to be involved for a long time,” said Carolyn, a sophomore at Jesuit High School.

“It’s been a lot of fun having her involved,” Connell said.

It should be mentioned that this year’s Big Bash will be a 50th birthday party for Connell, and at age 50 he is positively pink-cheeked with health and fitness. One can only anticipate great things for him in 2023, 2033, 2043, 2053 ...

For ticket information about the 2013 Big Bash, call 503-201-8839 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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