Celebrating Mr. Gresham, Todd Kirnan
Downtown Gresham was filled with laughter and air hugs as the community rallied together to give thanks to "Mr. Gresham" and his quest to spread kindness throughout the community.
Todd Kirnan stood by the bronze statue made in his honor two years ago — at the corner of Main Avenue and Third Street — as friends and neighbors drove by in a "reverse parade" on the afternoon of Tuesday, Sep. 22. In 2018, Kirnan came to the life-size statue dedication — bronzed by Heather Soderberg-Greene — as part of a parade past 600 people lining the streets.
This time, the parade came to him.
"He kept reminding me this day was coming up, so we wanted something to celebrate," said longtime friend Brianna Winningham.
Kirnan was diagnosed with autism shortly after birth and suffered through a rough childhood, including abuse and foster care. He never let that challenging start to life slow him down, though, and has since become the smiling face of downtown Gresham.
But the COVID-19 pandemic was hard on Kirnan, because it limited his normal ways of giving back to his community. He loves helping others, especially the business owners in downtown. For the past 17 years, Kirnan has run an informal business of delivering food and coffee, taking out recyclables, mailing letters, fetching stamps and whatever else is asked of him.
Many of those tasks had to be suspended or slowed due to the pandemic.
"You could tell his demeanor had changed. He had been struggling during the shutdown," Winningham said. "Todd loves to meet new people and communicate through hugs, and he didn't always understand when people kept their distance."
The smoke from the wildfires also bothered Kirnan.
"I like there is no more smoke now — that was scary," Kirnan said.
During the parade, people drove by honking horns in appreciation, waving homemade signs of thanks, and calling out heartfelt "hellos" to Kirnan. Many stopped to take photos with the man of the hour and his statue — which had its own mask to practice good safety measures.
"Thank you. I love you guys," Kirnan said.
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