Residents give surprise gift to Danville Costco greeter battling cancer

Shoppers, community members contribute to SoCal trip for San Ramon man also fighting multiple sclerosis

Arlie Smith's is the first face many customers see when they enter Costco in Danville and his voice the last many will hear as they leave what is one of the most highly visited stores in the San Ramon Valley.

He said he always tries to make a connection with the patrons and put a smile on their faces. Tuesday afternoon, a small group of them returned the favor in an unexpected way.

Local community members -- some who knew Smith and some who'd never met him -- contributed almost $2,500 for a Southern California beach vacation for Smith and wife Shari just months after 45-year-old Smith, who was already battling multiple sclerosis, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

"It could be a dream right now," the San Ramon man said after being presented with the surprise gift. "It's amazing; why me? I'm so lucky to be loved so much."

The effort began in the fall after Smith, a staple at the Danville Costco since 1993, told longtime store shopper Bridgette Loughnane about his cancer diagnosis.

"I just felt like there was something I wanted to do," said Loughnane, a Danville mother of four who spearheaded the Facebook fundraising campaign for the Smiths' trip. "I didn't know Arlie outside of seeing him at Costco, but now I do. He's a great man."

Loughnane, joined by about two dozen of the contributors and Shari Smith (who was in on the surprise), presented the gift to an unsuspecting Smith as he manned his post at the Costco entrance Tuesday afternoon.

"We're all here because we love you," Loughnane told Smith. "So, thank you for everything you do."

The package included a four-night summertime stay at the Surf & Sand Resort at Laguna Beach, spending money, a picture frame, seashells, sunscreen and a heartfelt note from the group.

"If she wasn't holding me up, I'd probably fall over," a stunned and tearful Smith said while hugging his wife.

"They're priceless. They're irreplaceable," Smith said of the well-wishers. "I'm richer than Bill Gates and the guy from Facebook and the guys from "Shark Tank" -- put them all together. I have a priceless, wonderful life. You can't put a price tag on all these people, on all of this."

Smith has made a lifetime of personal connections while working in membership services at the store on Fostoria Way, including perhaps his most important: the impression he made on his future wife.

The couple met through Shari's Costco trips in January 2002. "I picked him up wholesale," she joked.

They're set to celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary next month.

Their lives took an unexpected turn about five years ago when Smith first began exhibiting symptoms of what would later be diagnosed as multiple sclerosis -- a disease that also affected his mother.

Another medical bombshell fell last year, when Smith was diagnosed with renal cancer that metastasized to his bones. The initial prognosis from doctors was less than three years to live.

Smith said that throughout his health battles, the smiling Costco customers, young and old, have motivated him deeply.

"They're the reason I stand up tall at work every day," he said.

"What you have to do is find something you love, and keep doing that because that'll keep you going on," Smith added. "Find something you love to do, if you have MS. MS is a taker. It'll take everything you give it, and it'll never give it back to you."

Smith continues to work at the Danville store, with normal duties that include checking membership IDs and greeting customers entering the store and eying receipts of those exiting, trying always to talk with a smile on his face -- and usually drawing one on their receipt.

He said hopes to use the new-found community support to help raise funds for Children's Hospital Oakland as part of Costco's annual donation campaign later this spring.

"I have had 13 years of happiness with her," Smith said, holding wife Shari. "That's more than some children have had in their whole lives."

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2 people like this
Posted by Barb
a resident of Danville
on Mar 11, 2015 at 6:40 am

The television reported that it was the San Ramon Costco.. Don't they even ask the people standing there...where are we?

11 people like this
Posted by Margaret H.
a resident of Danville
on Mar 11, 2015 at 6:51 am

I love the generousity of our community! So sorry to hear about Arlie. Prayers and well wishes to him and his family. We have had several smiley faces drawn on our receipts by him!

5 people like this
Posted by ddc
a resident of Danville
on Mar 11, 2015 at 7:51 am

Arlie continues to brighten the days io those he comes into contact with! Thank YOU, Arlie!

5 people like this
Posted by Lyn
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 11, 2015 at 9:21 am

I see Arlie all the time at Costco. He has a great sense of humor and always brightens my day. Costco can get pretty crowded and I have wondered in the past how he can be so friendly and always smiling.I would have thought he had no worries at all. He is certainly an inspiration to all of us in this ccommunity. May God bless him and his family.
Also, thank you to Bridgette for organizing this. How awesome!

3 people like this
Posted by Louise
a resident of Danville
on Mar 11, 2015 at 9:45 am

Anyone who goes to Costco has seen Arlie. I have always enjoyed his smile and upbeat personality. I knew he had health issues and now he has a major one. If he keeps on smiling it will help take him through this journey that we all will have to take sometime. He will show us the way. Thank you Arlie.

15 people like this
Posted by Pat
a resident of Danville
on Mar 11, 2015 at 10:11 am

If there is a place to donate to this remarkable man, could someone get the info out there? He has touched all of us over the years! He always has a smile on his face, and a kind word for all. Truly an inspiration!

3 people like this
Posted by FanDanville
a resident of Danville
on Mar 11, 2015 at 10:21 am

I have gone to Costco Danville for years.
I have always thought very highly of Arlie for his friendly smile, hard-working presence, and courageous endurance and resolution against MS.
I had no idea about the recent cancer. I am so sorry to hear that! But wish him the best!

7 people like this
Posted by Joane
a resident of Danville
on Mar 11, 2015 at 10:49 am

I echo Pat's comments above. There are many of us who would like to donate as Arlie has given so many of us a nicer day after our visit and his greetings.

8 people like this
Posted by bz
a resident of Blackhawk
on Mar 11, 2015 at 11:27 am

What an INSPIRATIONAL story! I am inspired by Arlie..his love, winsome personality and courage! I am inspired by the lovely people who not only took the time to find out what is going on in the life of someone they merely see when shopping, but who ACTED on the information they were given. This is what life is all about! THANK YOU for the reminder and the inspiration!

1 person likes this
Posted by Kristen Trisko
a resident of Danville
on Mar 11, 2015 at 1:51 pm

When Arlie was a checker I would try to wait in his line because he was always so cheerful and positive. He also was wonderful with my kids. I have moved to Santa Rosa and miss seeing him when I enter Costco. I remember the day he told me he has MS. I raise service dogs and one of my dogs went to a wonderful woman with MS so I am a bit familiar with the desease. So sorry to hear about his cancer diagnosis!! Enjoy your mini vacation.

1 person likes this
Posted by Dorothy Foster
a resident of Alamo
on Mar 11, 2015 at 3:32 pm

I had no idea how seriously ill Arlie is. I always look for him when I shop at Costco because he exudes kindness and a spirit of enjoying the moment. His personality is magnetic. He has been very energetic in the past and now I understand why he is doing less strenuous duties. God bless you, Arlie. You are a role model to all of us.

2 people like this
Posted by afriend
a resident of Danville
on Mar 11, 2015 at 8:53 pm

Here is info on how you can donate to Arlie's favorite charity which is his goal. See bottom of the article. Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by Bridgette
a resident of Danville
on Mar 11, 2015 at 11:13 pm

Thank you Jeremy for a GREAT STORY! Those who'd like to help Arlie contribute to the Costco Children's Hospital Fundraiser are asked to postdate a check to May 1, write it out to Costco and then in the notes/memo section write your Costco ID number along with "CMN" (Children's Miracle Network). If you are not a Costco member, just write CMN in the memo. Those checks will be given to Arlie to turn in on May 1, and he will get the credit. If you include a self-addressed stamped envelope, Arlie will mail you a receipt. Or you can go to the membership desk at Costco and they can print you a receipt after the check is cashed when you give them your membership number. Those who would like to help are asked to send the checks before May 1.

Checks can be mailed to:
Bridgette Loughnane, Arlie's Angels
P.O. Box 1503, Danville, CA 94526

Like this comment
Posted by Laurie
a resident of Danville
on Mar 12, 2015 at 7:27 am

Arlie, My husband and I wish you the best. Laurie and Peter Ehrlich 84ikS

1 person likes this
Posted by Julia
a resident of Alamo
on Mar 13, 2015 at 9:54 am

All my best wishes for Arlie and to his wife and family.

And to Barb the first person to comment...Barb you really show the ego that some Danville folks have. Get a life Barb...Who really cares if the Costco is in Danville or San Ramon...

I see Arlie at least twice a week. GOOD LUCK ARLIE.

Julia Pardini from Alamo

4 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Danville
on Mar 15, 2015 at 11:53 am

My wife and I live in Laguna Beach and if needed, would be willing to contact local businesses to help make their stay all the more memorable.

Bridgette, please contact us at to discuss further.
Thank you.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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