Off the wall |

Off the wall


During the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, customers at the Red Banjo Pizza Parlour on Main Street began to stick currencies from all over the world on the restaurant’s wall.

When the tourists left, the money did not stop coming. American customers began posting dollar bills, many with the patrons’ names and home towns scribbled on them. Some even made origami figures of boats and bow-ties with the bills. They added flavor to the restaurant’s décor, but soon it became clear that not every customer could be trusted.

"We noticed they were starting to disappear in some spots," said part-owner David Ireland. As a deterrent to all but the most callous thieves, Ireland put up a sign saying the restaurant would match all dollars placed on the wall and deliver them to a charitable cause.

This year’s cause is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which hits close to home for Red Banjo employee Bryan Fletcher. Growing up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Fletcher was told he had acute lymphatic leukemia at age 3. He underwent chemotherapy for a year before it went into remission.

"It’s something that’s always meant a lot to me," Fletcher said. "I’ve been through it all. It’s always been in my head that if it wasn’t for people trying to help the cause, I wouldn’t be here today."

You might know Fletcher from his career as a nordic combined skier, which he started at age four against doctor’s orders. The same work ethic that made him an elite junior athlete and took him to two world championships led him to become an active contributor to cancer charities.

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Fletcher will be on hand for a fundraising bike ride Sept. 17-19 that takes riders 100 miles from Moab through the La Sal Mountains and back to Moab an event that raised $350,000 last year and he also helped organize a walk/run last year that raised more than $17,000. His World Cup teammate and brother, Taylor, also works at the restaurant and helps with the cause.

"The Fletcher brothers’ parents have probably raised the best boys I’ve ever met in my life," Ireland said.

Ireland continued the trend of hiring athletes after the Fletcher brothers, accepting applications from U.S. Ski Team athletes Brett Denney (nordic combined) and Jessica Jerome (ski jumping). As you might expect, Ireland might have a staff shortage on his hands soon when the winter sports season begins.

"We hold their jobs for them when they leave," Ireland said. "They all leave at once, that’s the only drawback."

Nonetheless, all four world-class athletes will be on hand Thursday, Sept. 2, from 5 to 7 p.m. to sign autographs and solicit some last-minute donations to the cause. Nordic combined teammates Eric and Brett Camerota might also attend, as might gold medalist Billy Demong, if his hectic schedule allows.

Right now, Ireland estimates they have raised about $500, to be matched by Red Banjo. Some of the larger bills are tucked away under the till for safe keeping.

Ireland said the restaurant will likely donate to different charities each year in the future.