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The Clarence Fund

The people who stand outside the DrinkScotch Center and sell our game-day paper to you fine folks are a great, dedicated crew. We've had some people come and go and we've had some come and stay. One of our longest-tenured vendors is Clarence. Between selling Game Time and selling our predecessor, the Game Night Revue, Clarence has been hawking fan-run programs for over 15 years.

The last time you bought our paper, it's statistically pretty likely that you purchased your copy from Clarence. If you don't know Clarence by name, he's the guy who stands out on the sidewalk on Clark Street in front of the Kiel Garage entrance. Clarence is our most boisterous, most animated, most (as one reader called him) "barkingest" vendor. You know Clarence.

Clarence, like all of our vendors, IS Game Time to most of you. You read it religiously, and you gladly pay $4 a game for it. You like the trivia and you play Bingo, and you love the cover and have your other favorite sections, but you've never met any of the people who write those sections. You've met Clarence. And he loves Game Time every bit as much as the people who are actually writing the words and doing the research and making the dirty jokes.

Clarence loves this paper like it's a living, breathing thing. He loves the articles and the jokes and the stats, for sure. He loves all of that, but he loves you all even more. He may not know every one of you by name, but he knows all of you better than you think. As much as Clarence is Game Time to you, you all are Game Time to him.

"That guy buys when he can. Those two buy every game. That guy never buys, but his wife always comes and talks to me while he parks the car. That guy always goes to Maggie O's and then buys from me. That guy is always late. They're always early. Those two always buy from John, but they always say hi to me on the way."

He's part of your game day experience, but you're part of his, too. You're also part of his life.

Clarence, for those of you who don't know, has cancer.

He has been fighting it since the season started. He had some chemo and some medicine and some more of this and some more of that. All the while, he came out and stood on the corner to sell this paper. Not because he needs the little bit of cash he gets, but because he truly loves it. There were a few nights when he couldn't make it and we all made excuses for him by telling you that he had to go in to work or he had some sort of other commitment. Now you know that wasn't true. What you also don't know is that Clarence often snuck out of his house during his treatment, against the wishes of his wife, kids and his sister, to come hang out and sell some hockey papers and, mainly, to see you.

I kept telling him, "If your wife, kids or sister show up here to kick my ass, I'm telling them right where you are."

At the end of his treatments, Clarence got good news: There was improvement. The mass in his stomach that needs to be removed by surgery had shrunk. The problem with doctors, of course, is that sometimes "improvement" is subjective. Last week, Clarence was told that the surgery he will undergo on Feb. 1 will be to go get the cancer that is a large percentage of his stomach.

The Blues have Tuesday at home and then we're done selling papers to you until after Clarence's surgery. He will be on the Game Time injury report for the next six to eight weeks after that. We totally expect that Clarence will be available to come out and sell papers to you sometime in April or at least in time for the playoffs. Cancer may be a dirty sonofabitch, but cancer never pissed off Clarence before, either.

So, this is where I ask you to act. Clarence is in pretty good shape. But he's going to be unable to go to his real job for eight weeks too. His wife has been on the Walker Family Injured Reserve for a few weeks herself. Times, as you may have heard, are tough.

Clarence would never ask for it and he would never let on that he could use it, but Clarence and his family could use our help.

We're setting up The Clarence Fund for donations to him and his family. This is not a charity, and there are no goals or stated uses for the fund. This is just a way for us to give a gift to our friend. As I said to him when I proposed this, "We love you, buddy. We just want to help."

To ensure that all of the money gets to him and his family and to ensure that the gift is 100% of the donated funds, we're just going to run it through the paper. Give your vendor a check to St. Louis Game Time and mark it for The Clarence Fund or email me for a send-to address. Use the button to your right to donate to The Clarence Fund. Paypal the money to us using the email and I will write the check to him myself with your name on it. Figure out how you want to do it, and we'll get the money to Clarence and his family.

If you have questions about this gift, email me.

We all know that Clarence will be back with us in time for the playoffs. Let's just make sure he has to thank us all for something when he gets back.