Walkers Boost Drivers’ Morale, Help Wildfire Victims

Craig Benjamin (right) donned a Santa hat for pre-Christmas walks with Greg Buehler (center) and Dan Goodyear (left) of Sherwood. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Many people in Tigard have by now noticed two or more men walking primarily around the southeast part of Tigard who enthusiastically wave at every passing vehicle.

“We also wave at walkers, joggers, golfers, dog-walkers, gardeners, the police, FedEx and UPS,” said Craig Benjamin, who lives in Summerfield. His regular cohort is Greg Buehler, who lives up the hill from Benjamin near the John Tigard House.

But the men are doing more than getting some fresh air and exercise as well as bringing a smile to passersby: they have embarked on a not-so-secret mission to raise money for the Glide General Relief Fund that supports victims of the Archie Creek Fire that burned 131,000 acres last September and destroyed 109 homes.

Glide Revitalization is a 501(c)(3) organization, and 100 percent of donations benefit fire victims and organizations providing food and services to the hundreds of displaced residents of the community located east of Roseburg.

Benjamin and Buehler have known each other for years through the Southwest Church of Christ in Tigard. Buehler started walking after he lost his job as director of IT at a travel agency when it closed in March “to help keep my spirits up.”

“I mentioned to Craig that I had started walking, and Craig said, ‘Could I join you?’ He started walking with me April 14, and we meet at 98th and Sattler.”

Benjamin added, “We can’t shake hands now or hug people, so we started waving to be friendly and lift people’s spirits. We are getting exercise, fresh air and sunshine and are releasing endorphins – it’s a full body workout.”

Buehler explained, “If you’re in a bad mood and someone does something nice for you, you feel better. We thought this was something we could do.”

Buehler calls himself a walker who waves, and Benjamin calls himself a waver who walks, but no matter how you slice it, the effect is the same: Bringing a moment (or more) of joy and happiness to folks going about their day.

“At first people stopped, thinking we needed help,” Buehler said. “We have to be careful around buses as they thought we were flagging them down,” and Benjamin added, “Now we give them a thumb’s up. We have them trained.”

Craig Benjamin (left) and Greg Buehler walk along 98th Avenue, waving at passing motorists and brightening their day. (BARBARA SHERMAN/TIGARD LIFE)

Some people honk in support, stop or make a U-turn to take photos or videos of them, and “almost every day someone stops us to say thank you,” Buehler said.

They are dedicated, with Buehler walking every day and Benjamin walking six days a week for two hours each whether it is raining or not, and they plan to keep it up if snow or sleet hits the area.

While they walk, they also talk a lot, and they came up with the idea of turning their daily ritual into a fundraiser for a deserving group. Benjamin, who just retired as a minister at the Tigard church, looked at various options to support wildfire victims.

“I called an acquaintance who grew up in Glide to ask about the needs there,” Benjamin said. “After talking with Glide Revitalization, I chose to support the Glide area, which has $9 million in unmet needs.”

The walkers posted their efforts on several websites such as Nextdoor and Facebook, where hundreds of people have posted positive comments about their waving, including the following ones:

“You are walking the talk of what it truly means to be ‘loving thy neighbor…’ You inspire & elevate us beyond the worry & stress of pandemic life. Thank you for bringing cheer, smiles & your warmth. May God bless you & keep you & your loved ones healthy & safe. Merry Christmas!”

“I hear everybody talking about the ‘wavers’ in Summerfield area and further. I’ve seen you a few times myself and always wave back. In a time of change and uncertainty we all applaud you in finding the joy in life and spreading it to all you see!”

“Ohhhhh my girls love them! We call them the happy wavers…”

“Day made. Thank you to the two people who walk down Durham in the mornings, smiling and waving wildly at cars passing by. I don’t know who you are, but you make my day (and I’m sure the days of so many others) so much brighter!”

“Craig Benjamin thank you SO much! I’ve been working LONG hours at a hospital and when I see you it puts me in a great mood to start the day and get me through it! Thank you!!!”

Buehler’s Fitbit reveals that he has walked 5 million steps and 2,000 miles since he started in March, and the men hope they will inspire local residents to make contributions to the Glide effort, with Benjamin setting a goal of $100,000.

“We walk a minimum of 150 miles per month,” Benjamin said. “A contribution of 10 cents per mile would raise $15 per month, or $1 per mile would be $150 per month.”

To learn more or make a contribution, go to www.gofundme.com/f/craigs-campaign-for-glide-revitalization.