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Photos provided Frank and Laurie (Moore) Kohoutek peruse the silent auction.

Medina benefit pulls in more than $25,000 for relief

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It was a stormy weekend in the Twin Cities, with Saturday bringing the biggest pre-Thanksgiving snow since the Halloween '91 blizzard.

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But that didn't stop hundreds of people from attending the Wadena Relief Fundraiser held the next day, Sunday Nov. 14.

"We sold over 300 tickets and we consider that to be a success," co-chair Matthew VanBruggen said.

The benefit raised more than $25,000 for the future of replanting of trees and the future wellness and city recovery programs. The final number is still being tallied up.

Barb Aldrich Engelmann and Tracy Adams Kooman, along with VanBruggen, coordinated the event which included music by the White Iron Band and the Backseat Boogie Band, food, a program, silent auction with more than 145 items, and the Wall of Wine with 75 bottles donated and sold generating a profit of $1,875.

"It was excellent. Well attended. All the comments I heard were positive," VanBruggen said.

Mike Fairbourne of WCCO emceed the event. Fairbourne joined WCCO-TV as a meteorologist in 1977. He has been honored with several awards, including the MEA School Bell Award, the Minnesota Civil Defense Director's Certificate of Commendation and the International Weather Festival Trophy.

Speakers included Mayor Wayne Wolden, who talked about the progress Wadena has made since the tornado on June 17. He also pumped up the crowd by sharing a picture of a sign posted in Wadena reading, "WDC State Volleyball Champions." That picture had been e-mailed to him during the event.

Senator Dan Skogen spoke on the efforts made at the Capitol to aid Wadena. Erik Osberg presented the Wadena Area Replant Project, also known as Trees for Wadena.

As part of the fundraiser, 86 bracelets were sold to support Trees for Wadena.

Cindy Wood shared her tornado survival story, "Twister Ravages Wadena." Wood's daughter Mariah was among the lifeguards who had taken two children to shelter in their home across the street from the pool seconds before the pool was destroyed. Wood said that the grace of God had saved them.

"The presentations were great," VanBruggen said.

Karen Hunnicutt-Meyer provided the media productions for the event, sharing her photographs of the damage and destruction of the June 17 tornado that ripped through Wadena, with emotional slideshow presentations.

Meyer said that many attendees had grown up in Wadena and moved to the metro area.

The irony of June 17 interrupting Wadena's all-school reunion was not lost on her and her classmates.

"It was kind of a mini all-school reunion because there were so many people that we had known," Meyer said. "Most of us were from the Cities and probably lived within 5 or 10 miles of each other and didn't even know it."

The Wadena high school alumni at the event represented many graduation years.

"Class of 77 was there. I think we had the biggest turnout of all the classes," she said.

Steve Stromberg and Tracy Adams Kooman closed the program on a note of hope, singing Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA."

"Fund a Cause" onsite donations exceeded their goals of $10,000 with Mike and Barb Aldrich Engelmann offering to match the first $5,000 raised.

"On behalf of everyone that worked at the event, we thank the readers of the newspaper and the citizens of Wadena for supporting it, either by attending or contributing," VanBruggen said. "And I want to again stress that the net proceeds, what we raised at the event, are going to directly impact Wadena."

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