Love for Lars: Benefit shows small-town support for man with cancerLars Sundberg has never been the most physically imposing man around. But everyone that knows him calls Lars the toughest guy they know. That sort of resiliency is why the friends and family of the 27-year-old Grygla, Minn., native have been optimistic since Lars was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblasic Leukemia, a type of blood and bone marrow cancer.
By: Robb Jeffries, Grand Forks Herald
Lars Sundberg has never been the most physically imposing man around. But everyone that knows him calls Lars the toughest guy they know.
“In high school, he weighed around 160 pounds, maybe 170 soaking wet,” cousin Ben Sundberg said. “But he could take hits, get beat up, and he’d just bounce right back.”
That sort of resiliency is why the friends and family of the 27-year-old Grygla, Minn., native have been optimistic since Lars was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblasic Leukemia, a type of blood and bone marrow cancer.
Lars was diagnosed on June 5, 2010. Many of his friends and family were in shock that this could happen to a young man known for his happy, positive attitude.
“He said his jaw was bothering him after going to the dentist,” Ben said. “When I found out, it was awful. Lars is a very positive guy, always smiling. He would give the shirt off his back to anyone if they needed it.”
“It’s been hard to deal with since we are such good friends,” said Josh Holte, a friend who has helped organize an upcoming fundraising benefit for Lars, Lars-a-Palooza II. “We’ve just been trying to him everything he needs and have a lot of positive energy.”
After two benefits — one in Grygla, and the original Lars-a-Palooza in 2011 in Thief River Falls — raised tens of thousands of dollars for his treatment, friends decided it was time for Lars-a-Palooza II. The benefit will be held Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Grygla Community Center. There will be a spaghetti feed and a silent auction, along with live music or a DJ.
“It should be more fun than a normal benefit, we want to keep it lighthearted, because that’s what he wants,” Holte said. “It’s kind of a unique way to go about it.”
Ben said Lars’ wife, Amanda, has been a source of strength for Lars during his treatment.
“She’s just like Lars,” Ben said, “a fun, outgoing person that would help anyone. Sometimes, you can just see people together and know they are meant to be with each other, and that’s them. She is definitely his rock and is always by his side.
“When he has relapsed, we know Lars has it, but it’s almost like she has the illness, too.”
Amanda traveled with Lars to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., when he had his initial treatment in 2010. He proposed to her on Christmas Eve, and the two were married April 29, 2012, after postponing the wedding after his first cancer relapse.
“Since they have made it through this, they can make it through anything,” Ben said. “They’re the kind of couple that can be together for 50 years or more.”
The outpouring of support from the Grygla community has been overwhelming, Ben said.
“I could just speak on behalf of the Sundberg family, but I think small towns like Grygla are a big family themselves, and everybody knows it’s important to support each other.”
Despite Grygla only having a population of just over 200 people, Holte and Ben said they are preparing to serve spaghetti to upwards of 400 people at Lars-a-Palooza II.
“That’s just how a small town is,” Ben said. “We feel like we’re the lucky ones that he’s our friend. I bet most of our community is there.
“We have his back, and I know if any of us were in the same situation, he’d have our back, too.”
Call Jeffries at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1105; or send email to email@example.com.