I love doing inspiring Photo Stories, and when I first heard of Arlie Smith, and watched the news clip, I felt compelled to share his story. He was recently in the news when Costco customers got together and collected $2,500 to send him and his wife on a trip to Laguna Beach. I had seen him at our local Costco, and had the privilege of knowing his lovely wife Shari. He has worked at Costco for 22 years, and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis two years ago. Last September he was diagnosed with Kidney cancer that has spread to the bones. The median life span for this is 2 1/2 years. “His response was, ‘Well, at least I won’t die of MS,'” says his wife Shari. “Despite being diagnosed with cancer, he’s been enthusiastic and happy,” she says, and he plans to work at Costco for as long as he can.
After I recently met with Arlie – even in the short time we were together – I could tell that he was very passionate about raising funds for the Children’s Hospital Oakland. “I don’t want the spotlight on me,” he said. “So whatever spotlight I get, I turn it to Children’s Hospital Oakland.” Looking at Shari he says, “She is my inspiration, she does everything for me. You should photograph her.”
He has been raising funds for the Children’s Hospital Oakland every May when Costco holds its annual fundraiser, and has been in 6th place among top fundraisers in the past in US and Canada. This year, he wants to be the number one fundraiser in the country and reach his goal of $1,000,000. “My goal is to be number one and not for me,” he says. “It’s so I know I made a difference, and put a mark in a positive way to make this world a better place.” After our meeting, I came away with the mission to do whatever I can to help him reach his goal, and have already donated to Arlie’s fundraiser. Additionally, 20% of all profits from In Pursuit of Pictures for the month of May will be donated to help him reach his goal.
Every bit counts, and your donation will make a difference and provide care for children at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and help Arlie become the top Costco fundraising associate for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in North America! “I don’t want any parent to have to sit there and see their child suffer and feel helpless,” he says. “Children’s Hospital gives the whole family support.”
Arlie and Shari met at Costco in Danville in January 2002. “She picked me up wholesale,” he laughs. They were married a year later. “I work in Heaven on earth and then I come home to an angel,” he says. Many customers refer to him as the “Costco Guy,” as he is always greeting them with a smile. He is passionate about raising funds for the Children’s Hospital Oakland, and wants those interested in supporting him to make the donations through Costco’s store-wide fundraiser through the month of May. Costco will donate a percentage on top of what the members donate. Last year, Costco matched 20% of the donations. Arlie points to the “No Fear” sign on his truck. “15 years ago I was a raging alcoholic,” he says. “I had to take care of my grandparents with dementia and I was not taught any coping skills growing up. So I medicated myself with alcohol and sleeping pills and didn’t care if I woke up because I was losing the ones I loved the most.” I don’t know to articulate it,” he says, ” but having to let go of my grandparents was the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me and my biggest regret. It was such a traumatic experience to be separated from my grandparents that I gave up drinking, and it has been close to 15 years now.” He met Shari 6 weeks after he stopped drinking. “She was taking care of someone who was like an adopted mother to her,” he says. “I loved how patient she was with her and how she never had any agitation in her voice.” Remembering those days, Shari says, “He came over almost every day, bringing us groceries, helping with projects, and giving me something to look forward to every day.” He proposed to her at this spot 13 years ago at Canyon View in San Ramon. He has lived in San Ramon for 38 years. “All benches I saw in parks are always dedicated to people that have passed away and will never have a chance to enjoy sitting on the bench that was dedicated to them,” Arlie says. He dedicated a bench to Shari the first year they got married as a surprise Christmas present. They sit at the bench in Central Park he dedicated to her. His plan was to watch the July 4th fireworks with her while sitting on the bench, and also watch the sunset. But he had to appeal to the City of San Ramon because they were ruining his romantic plan by putting porta-potties across from the bench which left a foul stench. The San Ramon City Council got a real laugh off of this and did not have to vote on moving the porta potties. It made it into the San Ramon and Contra Costa Times July 3rd & July 5th 2010. Shari and Arlie share a relaxing moment at their favorite spot in their home with their dog Tinkerbell. He got Tinkerbell for her as a Christmas present in Dec 2011, and they don’t know how they ever lived without her. Arlie likes the fact that they will never have to pay for college or daycare. They take her everywhere with them anyway! For them a vacation isn’t a vacation without Tinkerbell. “How can I take all this for granted?” he says.
Links to recent stories about Arlie:
Links to older stories on Arlie:
“Ask, And It Shall Be Given You;
Seek, And Ye Shall Find;
Knock; And It Shall Be Opened Unto You;
For Every One That Asketh Receiveth.”