Images courtesy of Russ Knorr.
The measure of one’s life isn’t measured in the troves of stuff they hoard, but in the way they impact those around them and society as a whole. Russ Knorr, the owner of a 2014 JK Wrangler named Rack Attack and South Puget denizen, is one of those people that will be measured in the wealth of good, regardless of his income. However, even though his childhood was full of G.I. Joes and Hot Wheels, our story doesn’t start with cars or jeeps or vehicles. It starts in a budding friendship in the U.S. Army.
“My time in the Army opened my eyes… being family does not mean only blood,” Knorr said. “I was on my own, away from family other than my wife and children.”
While serving in Fort Drum, N.Y., Knorr met Kevin Thornberry and his wife, Jennifer.
“We came up through the ranks together, as privates, and both deployed to Iraq from 2004-2005,” Thornberry said of the man whose sense of humor drew him into a friendship.
While Thornberry got out, Knorr stayed in, but they always kept in contact—the military bond defying distance. Family, despite the lack of blood relation. People and experiences that helped him grow into the soldier, the man, the father, the human that he is now.
“During my second deployment to Iraq, Kevin informed me that Jen had breast cancer,” Knorr said.
Given his location in the middle east, Knorr could do little but help financially and emotionally while his brother-in-arms nursed Jen through a double mastectomy For a while, things were good. But, as cancer is won’t to do, it came back.
“Then, while in Afghanistan for my third deployment, I was notified on Christmas Day that they had run Jen to the ER because she was having a very rough time breathing,” Knorr remembered.
Russ Knorr and Rack Attack Sponsors
(This list is in no particular order)
- Daughters Destiney and Liberty
- Eden Beesley, Girlfriend
- Kevin Thornberry, Brother
- Kathy Kruise, family friend
- Heritage Distilling Company
- NW Total Trucks Accessories and More
- Yelm Prairie Bowling Alley
- Valley Auto T90 Diesel
- RMWP, American Cancer Society
- Seattle Seahawks, Beast Bus
- Snohomish County Sheriff Department
That rush to the doctors would lead to a diagnosis: Jen had stage 4 cancer peppering tumors on her lungs, and she only had 9 months left. He was overseas, his family was holding down the fort, and so there was little Knorr could do to assist.
“I felt horrible.”
While the Army honed Knorr into the man he is, those around him kept his heart warm and caring. Years passed, Knorr left the Army, yet his connection to the soul-sucking disease left an indelible mark upon his heart. His familial experience with cancer inspired Knorr to join the Thurston County Real Men Wear Pink (RMWP) community, a fundraising arm of the American Cancer Society (ACS).
And Knorr has fully embraced the Pink. His jackets are pink, his pants are pink, his shirts are pink, his hair is pink… why, even his 2014 Jeep Wrangler JKU is hot pink, wrapped by Nate at Oly Wraps in Spanaway, Wash.
“I think he did a fantastic job!” Knorr commented. Though he shows it in an interestingly fun and fully memorable way.
Rack Attack has hundreds of signatures on it, all with a memory of how and where he obtained it; all from people who have donated or supported his RMWP activities. When a softball team saw Rack Attack on the way to a game, they signed it. When the Seahawks Beast Bus invited him to participate in a fundraising tailgate, they signed it (and even donated a signed jersey from Hall of Fame and All-American defensive back, Kenny Easley). The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department has signed it and even given him a pink police badge in honor of his efforts. People who have seen him at car shows, community events, cancer walks, vendor booths, and even on the street, have signed it.
One such signature is from local car community celebrity, Dave Schneider, Exotics@RTC volunteer and local icon at nearly every event between Redmond and Tacoma. Schneider met Knorr through a Modern Mopars event at the Cheney Stadium in Tacoma. He’d driven his red viper to a pre-game meetup for the Tacoma Rainiers and, being the new face in the group, started chatting to the backdrop of Detroit Muscle.
When asked how he knew Knorr, Schneider responded simply: “His Jeep initially, then his ability to respond when I said hello.” Ah, the rigors of social interactions within the car community.
Schneider has gone to friends’ cancer fundraisers, as well as those for MS, via the motorcycle community, and is devoted to helping those suffering from medical conditions.
“These kinds of events make me feel fantastic and that I can become part of a large committee of people with like-minded interests,” Schneider regaled. “It’s also nice to hang around with solid people who have a thirst for life and an attitude of enjoyment and want to succeed at something or multiple things!”
Of course, a tall, cancer-pink Jeep is rather difficult to miss. And for a good reason, too. Recognition with the cause at events with thousands of attendees is one of the best ways to gently remind people of cancer’s devastating impacts. Remind them to donate or volunteer, or even sign a cancer pink Jeep next to celebrities.
“This also gives people the opportunity from the everyday working person to a sports celebrity a chance to sign their names on something that everybody is completely equal on as far as cancer is concerned,” Schneider added.
“As soon as the Jeep is covered, 100% with signatures, I will then have a ceramic coating applied to preserve the love and support the Jeep has received,” Knorr said.
His first year, he helped raise $2,600 in donations for the ACS. To date, he’s raised more than $5,500 in donations for the ACS.
“I think some drives are good, and obviously some are not,” Thornberry said, noting that he doesn’t support the Komen foundation due to their lesser emphasis on cancer research. “For the ones that aren’t just trying to profit, they provide monetary support to survivors and progressive research, which is admirable.”
Aside from his fundraising, the Jeep and its many accoutrements have brought him close to his daughters, Destiney and Liberty, champions of his RMWP efforts.
Liberty (“Libby” for short), Knorr’s 10-year-old off-roader, loves hitting the trails in Rack Attack. During one such forested adventure, Knorr was crawling down a log, inching his way to the bottom in some new rims. Of course, as trails in the PNW often are, it was slippery, and Knorr damaged his rims. While having some grub at a nearby diner, Knorr listlessly stared at his rims—desiring nothing but the best for primetime—while his daughter observed him thinking of purchasing new rims.
“No!” Libby demanded, “you can’t buy new rims. Think about it for a second, cancer patients have scares and they also have stuff removed off of their bodies right? Does that make them less of a man or woman?”
To which Knorr had no other answer than “No.”
“Then, dad, how does your jeep getting scratched up wheels make it less of a jeep?” she inquired.
Knorr was stunned at the youthful logic and, to this day, his Jeep has damaged rims and is likely to regale you the tale if you ask.
“This was a life lesson that I was taught by my youngest daughter, and put me into tears,” Knorr recollected. “Somehow, I was able to teach her a lesson through my example… This has been a very humbling experience for all not just with me and my family.”
In 2020, he plans more, as would be expected. He is working with Fuck Cancer out of San Diego, Cali., on providing free areola tattoos to patients in Washington and California. He will tackle cancer with football bigwigs aboard the Seattle Seahawks Beast Bus. He will rub elbows and raise funds drag queens. Support Bowling for Boobs and Breaking for Boobs events in the greater PNW. And be seen cruising cancer runs in Rack Attack.
Phone: (801) 842-2742
Note to businesses, he’s accepting requests for sponsorships.
Like all who spread good, Knorr’s wealth lies beneath his pink suits and close to his heart. It lies along a trail dotted with family hardship, Army honor, and dedication to the cause.
It lies in the number of signatures on Rack Attack. In the hearts and minds of all who meet him as he spreads awareness about a terrible disease. And, most importantly, in the actions and beliefs of his children; those who lovingly join in on Dad’s adventures with Rack Attack—on road, at shows, or in the tree-laden hillsides of the PNW.
For more information about the Real Men Wear Pink effort, please visit the American Cancer Society website.