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Time to get funky, Yoshida-style

With a mission to prevent cancer, multimillionaire Junki Yoshida and wife Linda throw a fundraising concert at their Sandy River estate


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: SOULFUL GIVING FOUNDATION - Linda and Junki Yoshida at last year's Artful Giving Blanket Concert. Junki Yoshida, teriyaki sauce creator and multimillionaire founder and CEO of the Yoshida Group conglomerate, said he has been to a lot of nonprofit galas.

And every single one, the Troutdale resident said, insists that its attendees pay elitist entry fees, up to $200. Worse, everyone is dressed “like monkeys” in formal attire, tuxedos and the like, and sitting around, he said.

Junki, 64, known for his humor and eccentric tendencies, wanted something different for his East County fundraiser, the Artful Giving Blanket Concert, to benefit cancer research and sick children.

“Why dress up and pay so much money to help different causes?” he said.

Cancer is a disease that affects everyone, and anybody should be able to afford to support events that help find a cure, he said.

For a fourth year in a row, Junki and his wife, Linda, will open up their 15-acre estate on the south bank of the Sandy River, 29330 S.E. Stark St., for an all-day concert from noon to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, July 27. This year’s theme is “Time to get Funky!”

“People can come dance and listen to music,” said Junki, who wore a cowboy hat, purple T-shirt and jeans at last year’s concert.

General admission is $25 for tickets purchased online or $35 at the gate. Premier admission, which includes food and drink tokens, is $50. Full VIP treatment is $100. To purchase tickets in advance and to find out about event parking, go to www.soulfulgiving.org.

Proceeds benefit Providence Cancer Research and Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - A jet-lagged Junki Yoshida and his wife, Linda, sit inside their home in Troutdale.But just because a suit and tie are not required doesn’t mean this fundraising party is anything less than extravagant.

The concert is at the Yoshida Estate, perched above the Sandy River and shaded by tall fir trees, a mix of Japanese oasis and rose gardens.

Since 1912, the property has housed the Portland Auto Club, Viking Park and the Santry family’s Arabian horse farm, from whom Junki purchased it in 1993.

Yoshida and his wife have been donating money to cancer research organizations for many years.

Not to sound cocky, said Junki, rumored to be the only man in Oregon driving a new $375,000 Lexus LFA, but when you have a large amount of disposable income, donating money to cancer research is easy.

So instead of just giving money to people, he and his wife decided to do it “breaking a sweat,” he said.

Three years ago, they began their new endeavor — a once-a-year concert event in which all proceeds would be donated to cancer research.

It takes a year to plan the Artful Giving concert and four days to set it up, from installing porta-potties to putting up bands in hotels.

“It’s like a circus came to town and all the tents are going up,” said Linda Yoshida, president of the Soulful Giving Foundation, the board responsible for organizing the Artful Giving Blanket Concert.

Once inside the gates, people can lay out blankets on the lawn and listen to music, feast on the variety of food offered or wander the grounds freely.

The cool thing about the Yoshidas’ party is nearly everything is donated in the name of fighting cancer.

“There is very, very little we pay for,” said Junki, whose circle of friends include most of the politicians who run the state of Oregon, such as Gov. John Kitzhaber and U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

To avoid expensive payrolls, it is run entirely by volunteers, 180 of them.

Bands, many affected by cancer in some way, either have offered to play for free or at a lower rate.

This year, to involve a younger audience (21 year of age and older), the concert is headlining more hip, national acts such as Ivan Nevill’s Dumpstaphunk, Mingo Fishtrap and Monophonics.

Linda Hornbuckle, Lisa Mann, Peter Dammann and D.K. Stewart also will perform.

Four shuttle buses will tote people free of charge every five minutes from Mt. Hood Community College, which has donated its parking lot for the event. For $1, people can ride the Soul Bus, which leaves every 40 minutes from downtown Portland’s Crown Plaza Hotel and rallies riders with rounds of beer and a live band all the way to the Yoshida Estate.

Fifteen restaurants ranging from Paragon to Morton’s Steakhouse to Salty’s and Bumper’s Bar and Grill have signed up to donate food for the event, and 31 local vendors and artists also will be on the grounds.

Duck Pond Winery will bring the wine, and Widmer Brothers Brewing is bringing the beer.

Big sponsors — Pacific Seafood, Fred Meyer, US Bank, Pamplin Media Group, Lexus, Fox News and Portland General Electric — have helped secure the event’s cause for the past three years.

Junki Yoshida called the partnership of donors “amazing.”

Cancer fighters

“So many times people feel they have to join a cause because it directly impacted their own children,” said Linda Yoshida, who in her free time writes romance suspense novels under her grandmother’s name.

But she says everybody knows somebody touched by cancer.

And while, none of their three daughters has experienced major illnesses or health problems, Linda said, that doesn’t mean the couple is not directly affected by the life-threatening disease, which kills almost 1,600 Americans each day.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Creater of Yoshida Gourmet (teriyaki) Sauce, Junki Yoshida,64, and his wife Linda.“I lost too many employees and friends to cancer, especially in the last five years,” Junki said. These include his favorite business assistant, and his friend, former Yoshida Group President Matt Guthrie, who died after 10 years of fighting the disease.

“It was really shocking,” he said. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1.6 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2013.

Junki said fighting the cancer that killed his friends is a “positive revenge.”

“Anger is very powerful,” he said. “You can turn it into something positive.”

And so the Soulful Giving Foundation was born, and from it the Artful Giving Blanket Concert.

“We are proud of the fact that we’ve generated over $2 million on this property, bringing people to raise money for different causes,” Linda said.

Gov. Kitzhaber proclaimed July 27, the day of the Yoshidas’ fundraiser, Children’s Cancer Awareness Day.

Last year, the event raised $160,000 for cancer research. This year, the goal is $200,000.

In addition to benefiting the Providence Cancer Research and Randall Children’s Hospital, proceeds benefit programs such as Camp Ukandu, a summer camp for kids with cancer.

Every year, 13,400 children are diagnosed with cancer. It is the most common cause of death by disease for children and teens in America, according to the American Children Cancer Organization.

The couple’s commitment to helping ill children date back to before Yoshida struck it rich with his teriyaki sauce — a rags-to-riches story that embodies the American dream.

At the age of 19, Junki left his family’s home in Kyoto, Japan, despite his mother’s wishes, to make it in America.

With $500 in his pocket, he lived out of his car in Seattle, scraping by earning money as a karate instructor and nearly dying of starvation twice.

Taking college classes, he met Linda, whose father, a World War II veteran who served in the Pacific, despised Junki because he was of Japanese heritage and had no stable future.

The two married and had a baby, Kristina, who fell ill with a serious case of neonatal jaundice, requiring 24-hour intensive care.

With Junki teaching karate and working odd jobs, the family had no insurance. Expecting a huge medical bill, they were surprised when the hospital took pity on them and charged only $250. The experience gave the couple a desire to work hard and give back.

What started as a homemade batch of teriyaki sauce, cooked in a basement from a secret family recipe, grew into a product that Junki sold to the masses and made him a very rich man.

Yoshida’s Gourmet Sauce, known all over the world, has beoame the foundation of his multimillion-dollar corporation, the Yoshida Group.

The Oregon-based conglomerate, which at one point had as many as 18 diverse companies, still includes diverse interests ranging from sauce to soda to real estate and property management to the Riverview Restaurant in Troutdale.

Yoshida sold off a number of companies, and now manages 13.




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