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Café Teaches Skills

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Their effort is part of an ongoing crusade to find a cure for muscular dystrophy. Max Larcen, who is 24, has a terminal form of the disease. He's relied on a wheelchair for seven years.

The Larcens have launched a campaign called "Get Lost MD" to raise awareness and money to fight muscular dystrophy and to help the disadvantaged. It has two goals: to create a café that teaches basic restaurant skills to people facing physical, mental or economic conditions that make it tough to find a job, and to aid research by giving the profits to the Muscular Dystrophy Association

"We take pride in families like the Larcens who reach out and do something out of the box," says Tajuana Eddleton, district director of the Muscular Dystrophy Associaton. The café, she says, is "a wonderful opportunity to make people look at the condition and not make a judgment."

More than 1,800 people in the Richmond area suffer from one of the 43 kinds muscular dystrophy.

So far, the Larcens have found much support. Wilton Properties has leased them a 2,600-square-foot space in Stratford Hills Shopping Center for a fraction of the market rate, says Larcen. Local chefs such as Ed Vasaio of Mama Zu's and Rob Hamlin of Eurest Dining Services have offered their expertise in training staff. David Owen, vice president of Barber Martin Advertising has volunteered. Richmond Restaurant Service plans to sell goods at wholesale prices. And friends, family and the local chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association are pooling volunteers to work at the café.

Now what's needed is money: $200,000.

"If we can get this to work, it could be a model for other cities," says Garth Larcen, who owned and operated two restaurants in Blacksburg until 1982. And, he says, his son has come up with the name: The Positive Vibe Café.

A "Get Lost MD" fund-raiser is set for Jan. 9 at Have A Nice Day Café in Shockoe Bottom. The bands Gutterball, Myracle Brah and NRG Krysis will perform and door prizes will be raffled. The cost is $25 and tickets are available at Plan 9 locations.

— B.W.

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