Barlow High School alum and two-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Crouser returned to his home turf Monday, Dec. 20, to participate in the donation of youth athletic equipment to local nonprofit organizations and to celebrate his 29th birthday.
The gathering at the Salvation Army, 473 S.E. 194th Ave., and the equipment drive was put together by the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce to honor Crouser's athletic accomplishments.
Chamber CEO Lynn Snodgrass said the event was to recognize the work Crouser put into his career and to help future Olympians get their start.
Crouser won gold medals in shot put in the 2016 Rio De Janeiro and 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Snodgrass said the chamber initially wanted to celebrate Crouser's gold medal accomplishment last year, but COVID restrictions delayed those plans.
Instead, Snodgrass and company decided to move the celebration to Crouser's 29th birthday and added the week-long donation drive.
"We at the Gresham Chamber of Commerce are so excited today," said Snodgrass during the event. "We have collected about $4,000 worth of sports equipment."
The equipment collected was divided and given to Our Father's House, The Salvation Army Gresham Corp and Gresham-Barlow Youth Baseball-Softball.
"I would like to say that it is a pleasure to the city to have somebody that we can tout and cheer behind," said Sue Piazza, Gresham City Councilor. "We are just happy that you are a part of Gresham and part of Barlow High School."
After a few words from Snodgrass and other guests, Crouser spoke to the small group about the importance of sports in his life and what it can do for children.
"Although most athletes won't be professionals, they will learn to be part of a team, learn to set goals and learn how to persevere even when things seem bad," Crouser said. "Being exposed to sports is just a fantastic opportunity and provides so many life lessons."
Crouser fielded questions from the group about his regiment, accomplishments, future goals and memories of competing in the Olympics.
The local Olympian gifted representatives of the different organizations signed, gold-colored batons.
"This is definitely a big gift for us," said Kayla Viramontes, president of Gresham-Barlow Youth Baseball-Softball. "After these two COVID years and a low number of donors, this will make a big difference."
The group then sang "Happy Birthday" to Crouser right before digging into a birthday cake decorated with a picture of a gold-medal.
Crouser posed for group photos, signing autographs and talked with kids and community members.
"I am honored to be a part of this event. I remember getting my first basketball when I was a kid on Christmas, a Wilson Revolution, and how great it feels to own a piece of a sport that you love," Crouser said. "It is such a great opportunity to hopefully share that with someone else."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.