Community holds birthday parade for Health Officer Dr. Larson


Photos courtesy of Georgia Mallett

Abigail Duchow, Senior Reporter

Cars filled the parking lot of the church until the lot was nearly full. Children helped decorate their parents’ cars, and dogs poked their heads out of windows to excitedly look around at all the commotion. People wearing protective masks enthusiastically shared signs, streamers and balloons with others. 

On the warm evening of April 24, community members came together at St. Andrews Catholic Church to decorate their cars. The occasion bringing Ellensburg together was the birthday of Dr. Mark Larson. The people of Ellensburg were preparing their cars to drive by Larson’s house to celebrate his birthday while following social distancing guidelines.

Larson has been the Health Officer for the Kittitas County Public Health Department since 2006 and is also a doctor at Kittitas Valley Healthcare specializing in family medicine. In 2015, he received the Dr. John Anderson Memorial Award for Outstanding Rural Health Practitioner and the State Family Physician of the Year award.

A member of the community named Brandee Coates was at the birthday parade, decorating cars and making signs. Coates said she felt Larson was very deserving of a birthday parade with so many people showing their appreciation for him.

“He’s trying really hard to make sure we’re all valued and our lives are valued, and he realizes, all of us, as parents and essential workers, that all of this is affecting us so much,” Coates said. “Him being my own personal physician, I know that he cares deeply about everybody in this community. So I think this is just really important, that he sees that he’s valued too.”

Coates described this event as especially important during the current pandemic, and said Larson has been working hard during these times.

“He’s been working really hard with everything that’s going on, and he deserves it. I think people say a lot of stuff right now about Dr. Larson because he’s in charge of a lot of different decisions right now, and that’s a really hard position to be in,” Coates said. “People forget that he’s human also.”

April Grant is one of the community members that put the event together and invited people to gather for it. Grant said when the idea first came up, she thought there would only be a few people in the parade, but as soon as word spread, she knew there was going to be a large turnout.

“He’s just the most deserving man right now.” Grant said, “If we could just give him a little bit of love and he can feel it for a minute, that was the whole point of this, and I think everyone feels the same about him.”

Rachel Case is another community member that helped spread the word about Larson’s birthday parade. Case described how Larson has personally affected her and why this event was important. 

“He’s touched so many people’s lives. He’s my doctor, he delivered my kids, his son is my son’s best friend,” Case said. “I think that’s how it works in a small town, so I think everyone was really excited to step out and support him and wish him a happy birthday.”