For 18 years, Quentin "Sonny" Kahler spent August seeking donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association from customers at Fry's and other grocery stores in the Northwest.
This year, with Sonny lost to cancer in early June, the employees of Fry's are taking up the cause.
From Aug. 2 through Sept. 5, volunteers are sitting at tables outside all 24 Fry's in the Tucson zone, selling "mobile" paper cut-outs in Sonny's memory. There are 19 Fry's in greater Tucson, one in Sierra Vista, two in Casa Grande and two in Yuma. In addition, cashiers are going to ask for $1 and $5 donations at the register, with all proceeds going to MDA.
"As a Tucson zone, we're going to do what Sonny used to do in our stores," said Larry Russell, store manager of Fry's #117 at La Cañada and Lambert in Oro Valley. "We're going to raise the money, and do it in Sonny's honor."
"The goal is for each of the stores to raise at least $1,000 apiece," said Kaetlynn Daoust, regional public affairs coordinator for the MDA in Phoenix. "He raised so much money over 18 years. It's nice that all of the Fry's stores decided to join forces in honor of him."
Kahler raised more than $60,000 for MDA during nearly two decades of August solicitation. In his later years, he would do so from his red-flagged wheelchair.
"We're trying to continue his memory, and his passion of what he did for MDA," said Danielle Trzyna, district director for MDA's Tucson office. "Fry's was a wonderful supporter of this effort."
Fry's employees are going to volunteer their time, "maybe an hour or a half hour before or after they go to work," at tables in front of each store, Russell said.
"We're really, really grateful they're doing it," Trzyna said. "They're not getting paid for it. It's all on their own volunteer hours."
Russell remembers Sonny from the MDA drive as well as his regular shopping trips.
"I didn't know his name was Quentin until I read the obituary," Russell said. "He went around and talked to our employees. He became a pretty good acquaintance with our district manager. It's sad to hear muscular dystrophy didn't get Sonny, it was cancer."
Sonny's widow Rhondda hopes there are pictures of Sonny on tables throughout Tucson. She'll be making an appearance on the MDA Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon, to be aired Sept. 6 and 7 on KGUN-TV Channel 9.