Students organize fundraiser for fire survivors, memorial service for Larson Friday on campus

A group of St. Thomas students has organized a special benefit night Wednesday at Davanni’s on Cleveland and Grand avenues to help the student survivors of the house fire that killed Michael “Carson” Larson Saturday, Dec. 11.

<p>The house, located at 1795 Selby Ave., was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. (John Kruger/TommieMedia)</p>
The house, located at 1795 Selby Ave., was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. (John Kruger/TommieMedia)

The benefit will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and 20 percent of the sales will be donated to the St. Thomas student emergency fund.

Sophomore Matt Ruoho was at the scene of the fire Saturday at 1795 Selby Ave. Ruoho helped the three other students who survived after jumping out a second-story window and sustaining minor injuries.

“Me and a kid named Dan Brady, who called the police, tried to open up the back door and help out,” he said. “Dan was there to catch Cameron and his girlfriend.”

Ruoho witnessed the damage of the fire, which caused an estimated $120,000 in damages to the building and an additional $40,000 in damages to the home’s contents, according to the St. Paul fire marshal’s report.

“We saw it up close and personal and what all they went through,” Ruoho said. So after talking with some other students, he approached the dean of students’ office about helping out.

Ruoho said he knows the students can’t get everything back, but he wants to help as much as possible.

“You can’t replace what you’ve lost,” he said. “No money in the world can buy a life back.”

Josh Hengemuhle, commuter center and off-campus student services area manager, met with Ruoho and brainstormed different ways to fundraise. They decided to call local businesses to see if a benefit could be arranged on short notice.

Hengemuhle called Davanni’s, which agreed to host the event. Davanni’s does not usually host fundraisers Wednesday nights, but it made an exception and called in extra staff for Wednesday, Hengemuhle said.

“We want to get as many people as possible,” Ruoho said. “Davanni’s really made a stretch to get as many people as possible and make it as good.”

Hengemuhle said “this is a student-run thing that’s really getting this going.”

“That’s [an] incredible testament to the nature of the student community,” he added.

Ruoho said he hopes students “feel it is important to help out their fellow students the same way that they would appreciate if they needed the help.”

Participants must present a ticket Wednesday at Davanni’s for the donation to go to the relief fund. About 400 printed tickets will be available Wednesday shortly after 8 a.m. at the dean’s office, commuter center, Koch commons and campus life office, Hengemuhle said. Tickets can also be printed online.

Any money that is raised beyond what the fire survivors need will go in the university’s emergency relief fund for other students who experience situations like this, Hengemuhle said.

Donations to the fund can also be dropped off at the Dean of Students Office, 101 Murray-Herrick Center, or sent to the University of St. Thomas Student Emergency fund, P.O. Box 64947, St. Paul, MN, 55164.

Memorial service Friday in St. Thomas Chapel

Michael Larson
Courtesy of Emily Schultz

A memorial service for Michael “Carson” Larson, a 20-year-old St. Thomas sophomore who died in a house fire Saturday, will be held Friday, Dec. 17 in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas.

The visitation will run from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and the memorial will begin at 10:30 a.m. in the chapel.

About 100 people gathered in St. Thomas’ Florance Chapel on Saturday evening to remember Larson and share stories. Larson was a communication and journalism major and he wanted to become a sports reporter.

Larson’s roommate, junior Cameron Cochran, said he woke to Larson yelling about the fire.

“He started screaming super loud to wake everyone up,” Cochran said. “People should remember him as a hero. He saved all of us.”

Larson’s father said “it’s very sad.”

“He had a lot of big plans and big ideas,” Tom Larson said. “I tried not to pop his balloon.”

Theresa Malloy can be reached at