The Portland Timbers wanted to know: Are you RCTID? Fans answered in the form of Facebook photo entries for the RCTID contest that ran from Friday, June 22, to 5 p.m. on Monday, July 16, offering a pair of 2013 season tickets to the winner. All one had to do was submit a photo, add a special axe to it and see how many people would vote for it. Over 100 submissions were made with fans posting photos from games, from home, from all over. The Timbers are happy to announce Conner Firstman as the grand-prize winner.
Firstman’s photo (right), unlike others, wasn’t taken at JELD-WEN Field during a match or with friends or family. His photo was taken in early May at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland after a procedure to remove cancerous tumors from his lungs. It features Firstman in his hospital bed with his “NO PITY” Timbers Army scarf above his head with the caption: Fighting my second battle with cancer and showing it NO PITY.
With the help of friends, family and an entire army, Firstman won the contest and the season tickets the day after his 20th birthday – and the day before a procedure to remove the last of the tumors from his lungs.
However, it is the story of how Firstman’s photo received as many votes as it did that is as inspiring as Conner’s fight with cancer. Word of Firstman’s story spread like wildfire around the Timbers community, largely in part to Timbers Army member Brennen Cissna. As Cissna browsed the photos on the contest page, wondering if he should enter, he came across Firstman’s photo.
“I was drawn to him right away, and after I looked at his personal page I decided I wanted to help him,” said Cissna. “I felt that if anyone deserved tickets, it would be him. I wanted to try and make him feel like the Rose City was behind him in his struggle.”
Cissna, though not knowing Firstman, created a Facebook group rallying his own friends and family behind Conner, eventually growing to over 700 members.
“It meant so much to have so many people care about giving a strong show of support,” continued Cissna. “I don't know what winning this meant to him, but to me it meant we did a good job of showing him that so many people were standing behind him, casting their vote to give him an incredible show of support.”
However Firstman’s victory was anything but a given. Robby Larson’s submission was incredibly popular due to his push over social networks, friends, and emails. The results were close. In the week leading up to the end of the contest, Larson received Facebook messages and emails from supporters of Firstman’s asking him to withdraw from the contest to ensure that Conner won the tickets.
WATCH: Conner meets Robby at Timbers Game
“Honestly, I struggled with that. I wanted it for him. I have so much compassion for him and what he’s going through,” said Larson.
After Larson reached out to Firstman over email, it was decided that they would both see where the vote took them. Both fans had so many votes, that both of them thought they wanted it to be decided fairly.
“From that email exchange, it seems like [Larson] is a very humble and generous person,” said Firstman.
And from Conner’s concern about his fellow contestant, it makes his win all the more generous.
“[Shortly after the contest ended] Conner was talking to [his mother] and I about how he wanted to give Robby Larson the opening-game tickets and also invite him to share a game with him,” said Conner’s father, Curtis Firstman. “Conner's first thoughts were around how to help make Robby feel better since it was such a hard-fought contest.”
The Timbers soon announced that second-place winner Larson would also be awarded season tickets. Conner and his family learned of the dual-winners just prior to going into surgery again in July.
“It was after reading the Portland Timbers dual-prize solution that Conner's morale [surrounding the next day’s surgery] was boosted the most–way more than when he realized he had won the contest,” continued Curtis.
Both winners were surprised and humbled by the support they received from fans during the contest.
“This is one of those compelling stories that make the Timbers what they are,” said Larson. “It’s unique to Portland. It’s this mess of people that all come together from so many walks of life to be one in support of something they all love. And that’s what’s happening with Conner and me.”
“We all know that Timber tickets are not the cure for cancer, but it makes my situation suck a little less,” added Conner.
Larson is excited to meet Firstman after his return to Portland. “We’ve already talked about going to a game together in our emails. In the long run, yes, I get season tickets, and I’m really excited about it, but I get to develop friendships with people through the Timbers,” said Larson.
In a stroke of luck, that moment occurred on August 5 as both Firstman and Larson met up at the Portland-FC Dallas match while PortlandTimbers.com was doing an interview with Firstman about his win and battle (above, right). Needless to say, that special bond was strengthened.
Diagnosed in December 2010, Firstman has since undergone four surgeries to remove cancerous tumors. As of the procedure on July 17, he is tumor-free while continuing an experimental treatment program to keep him so. He plans to re-enroll at Montana State University this fall where he is studying film and photography in the fine arts program.