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Lions and Tigers and Bikes, Oh My!

Kevin Larson, CFI, senior manager of center store product protection for Kroger, has always been passionate about giving back. It was this passion—and a move to Columbus, Ohio—that led to years of dedicated charitable involvement with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and Pelotonia.

“I have had a very long and blessed career in the loss prevention field, and my wife and I do not have any children, so we have always turned our attention to charitable opportunities,” Larson said. “We really wanted to give back to things we were passionate about.”

Even before moving to Columbus, Kevin and his wife Sue had heard about the world-famous Columbus Zoo and Aquarium—the home of Jungle Jack Hanna.

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Once settled, it didn’t take long for the couple to receive an invitation to attend a small black-tie event at the zoo to benefit conservation.

The rest is history,” Larson said. “We are now going on year 12 or so of our involvement with the zoo.”

After a year of working with the zoo, Kevin approached the vice president of philanthropy and asked what more he could do to provide support. From this, Kevin and Sue were asked to sit on the committee to help steer the zoo’s largest donor event of the year, Wine for Wildlife. Two years later, they were asked to chair the event. They did so for three years, during which they raised approximately $500,000 for animal conservation. Now, the Larsons are in their second year of chairing a summertime fundraising event called Zoofari.

Out of all of these amazing opportunities, the highlight was probably when the zoo opened a new habitat for sea lions and harbor seals, called Adventure Cove. Kevin and Sue made the financial commitment to support this new habitat with a generous donation and were even able to name one of the areas in the Jack Hana Animal Encounter Village. They settled on the name Lark’s Landing—LAR for the first third letters of their last name and KS for Kevin and Sue.

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Kevin and Sue are also strong supporters of Pelotonia, a two-day cycling event that raises money for cancer research. The ride has been happening for over fifteen years, and over this span, it has raised over $283 million with 36,941 riders, 23,000 volunteers, and 691,000 donors.

“I have been riding for fourteen years in the event and I ride the 100-mile route, which starts in downtown Columbus and ends in Gambier, Ohio,” Larson said. “Like many of us, cancer has affected my family and friends very deeply. My mother passed away from the disease that beat her two years ago, though, if you asked her, she probably would say it was a tie. My mother-in-law passed away a few years ago as well and my sister is currently battling and fighting for every day of her life. It affects all of us in some way or form. It is a terrible disease, and I am doing whatever I can to help find a cure.”

In the fourteen years he has participated, Kevin has raised $48,000 for cancer research.

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“I am grateful for the many peers in this industry who have supported my yearly efforts by donating to my ride,” Kevin added. “I ride for those that can’t. There is no hill so steep that it can compare to the pain that comes from cancer treatments. Each time I get exhausted and feel like giving up, I think about my mom, my sister, and all my other family members, friends, and millions of people that I never knew. What they had to go through battling cancer compares to nothing I am feeling from riding a bike for 100 miles.”

Donate to the Columbus Zoo at columbuszoo.org/donate. Donate to Pelotonia at pelotonia.org/profile/KL0004.

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