‘Turn your grief into helping others’: Friends start charity to honor Arlington Heights cyclist who died in crash

Determined to carry on his legacy, friends and family of an Arlington Heights man who died in a 2022 AIDS charity bike ride have launched a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.

Glen’s Friends is the newly-established, Arlington Heights-based 501(c) (3) organization named in memory of 57-year-old Glen Brown, an experienced cyclist who was a block away from the finish line of a 545-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles when he fell and died in a single-bike crash on June 11, 2022.

“After Glen passed away, maybe a month or two after he passed, we just kept saying to ourselves, ‘Glen cannot go away. He was just too good of a person. He was just that love and light,’” said his sister, Janet Brown McCarthy. “We just wanted to honor him and keep his memory alive and turn our grief into happiness.”

McCarthy, who is president of a four-member board, has been talking with those who run organizations in the Northwest suburbs that could benefit from the new group’s philanthropic support. The initial outreach has included conversations with officials at Kenneth Young Center, which operates a LGBTQ+ youth resource center in Schaumburg; the Pinta Pride Project, which runs the annual parade in Buffalo Grove; and mental health advocates in Wheeling Township.

Since Brown was an avid cyclist who raised money for HIV/AIDS awareness, McCarthy said she’ll also be reaching out to organizations he was involved in. Eventually, she hopes to have a local bike ride in his memory.

Glen Brown raised funds and awareness for HIV/AIDS on bike rides that included Minneapolis-to-Chicago, Boston-to-New York, and San Francisco-to-Los Angeles trips. Courtesy of Janet Brown McCarthy

“Our whole mission is for people to be able to love themselves and to love each other. We’re coming from a place of love,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy’s fellow board members include some of her brother’s longtime friends: Diane Corbett, who met him in first grade at St. Peter Lutheran School; Judith Weirauch, who met him in second grade; and Heidi Wolter, who met him on the first day of classes at Augustana College.

They’ve started fundraising through Brown’s and their own social circles — and at — for startup costs, program development and community awareness.

Glen Brown of Arlington Heights was a senior designer at Walter E. Smithe Furniture in Vernon Hills. Courtesy of Janet Brown McCarthy

“Whenever we start discussing, we always just say Glen is behind the scenes, just smiling ear to ear, because Glen loved to be in the spotlight,” McCarthy said. “He loved being with people and he loved giving back and he loved hearing your story.”

“When you turn your grief into helping others, it becomes a happy place, and it becomes a place of love.”

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