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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

OMG Al Roker! (Part II: Parks + Oh Yeah!)

Posted on Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 3:31 PM

He's finally here!!

Iconic weatherman Al Roker arrived in town today, bearing gifts for the good girls and boys of North Portland! Jovial, enthusiastic, and chuckling at his own jokes, Roker's beaming smile was only matched by Kool-Aid Man, who was also in attendance. What occasion brought these two jug-headed titans together in the “heart of the Pacific Northwest” (a moniker I’ve never actually heard before but Roker used repeatedly)? Why, it was Today's charitable publicity vehicle "Lend a Hand Today." They came to announce the selection of Portland Parks Foundation as their newest donation recipient.


Roker and crew began broadcasting live segments to the East Coast at 4 am, and kept it going until the end of Today's episode at 7am (10 am EST). (Note: Early morning assignments are a great way to meet other newspaper interns whose superiors, like yours, are fast asleep. Thanks, Erik.) Behind Roker’s large head, which for some reason I keep harping on, was a giant truck, plastered with an even larger Roker likeness and filled with a chunk of the total $382,000 in gifts from corporate sponsors. At around 6 am, just as my caffeination was peaking, Roker cued the unloading of the truck revealing many useful, and some bewildering, contents....

(More pictures after the jump!)

The Portland Parks Foundation praised Today for coordinating this special event, and for its hard work soliciting donations. It was a clearly a tricky business to balance the chosen organization's needs with the sponsors available. One employee of the Portland Parks Foundation mentioned that a representative of Today called to ask if PPF could use a year’s supply of frozen food. Sadly, they could not. Other strange synergies were the contributions from Mr. Clean and $10,000 in merchandise from Neosporin (How do you use that much ointment? [Don’t answer that.])

Next, it was time to “reveal” the rock wall. Early this morning, McCoy Park on N Tremont and Newman played host to a brand-new, $60,000 climbing apparatus. It's transportable and will occupy various Portland parks throughout the summer. This was all kept completely secret until its majestic unveiling, as shown in these before and after pics... Gee, I wonder what could be under those two giant tarps with the rock walls sticking out!?


Kool-Aid helped pay for the rock wall, which explains their presence at the taping, though the Kool-Aid Man himself was enigmatic as ever. Despite their generosity, I still can’t shake the feeling that Kool-Aid is not good for anyone, especially children. Careful climbing that wall Kool-Aid Man! You don’t want to strain your philanthropic marketing muscle! Oh yeah!!


Jokes aside, these gifts are going to mean a lot for the Portland Parks Foundation and the kids it serves. Especially during the summer, the foundation’s activities create positive outlets for Portland’s youth and provide childcare for working families. The assistance of "Lend a Hand Today" will enable the foundation to expand access to its programs through financial aid, bilingual staffing, and building new parks.

Now, back to my low-brow synopsis. Here are some other things that Al Roker did that I found highly amusing:


• Ate a spicy Thai chicken wing and sticky rice at 6:45 am.
• Took over cameraman duties WHILE conversing and tasting a pie (see above).
• Gave a big “shout out” to Toys "R" Us for donating $75,000 in equipment.
• Complimented Kool-Aid Man on his jeans, which were not unlike Roker’s own pants.
• Said, in jest, “Don’t mess with me. I’ll drop you like a bag of dirt.”

This post is now officially worthy of the OMG Al ROKER! tag.

With all his traveling beneficence, you’d think Roker would start to feel like a summertime Santa Claus, which is exactly what I asked him. So does he? “Yeah, I kind of do,” he said, as he hoisted his sack of goodies on his back and, spicy Thai chicken wing in hand, rode his sled off into the partially cloudy sky. Next stop: Galveston, Texas.


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