Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

How you can help a Faribault family dealing with loss & cancer December 18, 2018

Nate and Jackie Howells and family of Faribault.

 

IT’S BAD ENOUGH when parents lose a young child. But to endure such a tragedy shortly before Christmas deepens the pain.

This is the reality for a Faribault couple whose almost 4-year-old son, Casimir, died on December 13. On his first birthday on December 27, 2015, Casi aspirated a small object and stopped breathing. According to a Facebook page entry, he lost consciousness and went into cardiac arrest. The object was removed surgically. He then suffered seizure-like convulsions and was placed on life support. About two months later, Casi left the hospital and has since needed 24/7 health care. Now he’s gone.

 

 

But there’s more. Nate and Jackie Howells’ 10-year-old son, Xavier (known as Iggy), is battling metastasized cancer (rhabdomyosarcoma) diagnosed a year ago. He’s undergone surgery and continues with chemo. He’ll likely need another eight months of treatment.

Nate quit his job teaching children with autism at Jefferson Elementary School in Faribault to better care for Iggy. The Howells have four other children.

As I consider all of that, I am overwhelmed by the immensity of the situation. How can one family possibly endure so much? Loss. Grief. Pain. Uncertainty. Worry. It’s a lot to handle.

 

Iggy’s soccer team wore these shirts honoring their goalie.

 

While none of us can remove the emotional pain the Howells feel, we can pray for, support, encourage, uplift, help and care for them. Nate’s friend and former co-worker Lisa (also my friend) has established a gofundme page, Iggy Strong. She’s set a $43,000 goal, meant to replace Nate’s lost paycheck and cover daily living (think gas, groceries, etc.) and other expenses. Thus far donors have contributed nearly $8,500.

The $43K is a lot of money to raise. But I know people, when they see a need, rise to meet it. I am grateful to Lisa for initiating this effort, for reaching out to others (including me) who in turn can share this need. If you can give, please do so by clicking here. You’ll also find more details on Iggy’s battle with cancer.

 

Iggy

 

There’s such sweetness in that freckled face. Such a signature boyish look that just makes me, as a mom, want to wrap my arms around Iggy. And his family.

 

Photos are courtesy of Lisa M. Bolt Simons, via the Howells family
© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Joyful in service: Supporting a Faribault family at a breakfast & silent auction fundraiser July 26, 2018

WHEN MY FRIEND LISA’S HUSBAND died from complications related to cancer while traveling in Sweden nearly two months ago, I was heartbroken. Heartbroken for my friend and her daughters. But also heartbroken for myself because Michael was my friend. And pastor.

 

A story I wrote about the fundraiser which published in the Faribault Daily News.

 

From 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. this Sunday, July 29, my faith family, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, is hosting a breakfast and silent auction fundraiser for the Nirva family. Proceeds will help cover medical and other expenses related to the unexpected death of their husband and father.

We are all called to serve others. I firmly believe that. I am honored to be on the team planning and implementing this fundraiser by handling the publicity and by coordinating the silent auction. The generosity of people donating primarily handcrafted and homegrown items humbles me. I purposely sought donations from creatives at Trinity rather than hit up local businesses. From garden art to garden-fresh bouquets to quilted items, woodcrafts and much more, the variety of auction items showcases a wide range of gifts.

Gifts. That’s an important focus in helping others. Not only will this benefit yield financial gifts. But, perhaps more importantly, it represents a show of love and support for a grieving family. And that is the real gift.

 

Thrivent Financial is providing seed money for the fundraiser through its Thrivent Action Team Project.

 

If you live close enough to attend and are moved to help this family, please come for the breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausages, fresh fruit and beverages prepared by a caring crew of Trinity folks. (Unfortunately I can’t be there given a previous commitment.)

Give as your compassion moves you and your finances allow. There’s no set price for the meal, but rather a free-will offering.

 

 

I also encourage you to check out the silent auction, which opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 11:45 a.m. All 50-plus items will have a cash-and-carry option, meaning you can pay a preset price and the item is yours, no bidding necessary.

In a few days, our crew will be in full pre-fundraiser work mode. Even with use of only one hand, I can write and organize. We each have gifts that we can use in serving others. That’s so important to remember in a time when the world too often seems self-centered and angry and just plain mean. We need to refocus on kindness and goodness and being there for one another.

In the words of Mother Teresa:

Faith in action is love—and love in action is service.

And one more great quote:

Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.

Who can you help today?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Lions Club serves Faribault community at 52nd annual Super Bowl breakfast February 2, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS AND ST. PAUL are getting lots of media attention these days as host cities of Super Bowl LII and related events. That’s to be expected. I’m grateful for that exposure, as long as Minnesotans aren’t portrayed as characters right off the set of Fargo. (Ahem, Minneapolis-based Surly Brewing.) Sure we draw out the vowel “o,” but we don’t talk with exaggerated accents. Not even in Greater Minnesota.

I digress.

I pulled this breakfast promo from the Faribault Lions club Facebook page.

 

Super Bowl LII in Minnesota reaches beyond the Twin Cities metro. There’s Browerville in central Minnesota, home to extended family of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. And then there’s Faribault, about an hour south of U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis and home to a 52-year Super Bowl tradition—the annual Lions Club Super Sunday Pancake & Sausage Feed. Yes, you read that right. Fifty-two years.

 

The featured foods, pancakes and sausage. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

Sunday from 7:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., the Lions will serve this all-you-can-eat Super Bowl Day breakfast to hundreds at the local Eagles Club in my community. I’ve attended once or twice. I’m not a fan of pancakes. But I am a fan of this Lions Club endeavor to raise monies for local causes such as the Basic Blessings Backpack Program, scholarships, dictionaries for local third graders and more.

 

Posted in the dining area at the 2015 breakfast. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

With a club motto of “We Serve,” the Lions are also collecting used prescription eyeglasses and hearing aids to redistribute to those in need. And, for the first time, they are offering a free vision screening to children ages six months to six years through Lions Kidsight USA, a community eye screening endorsed by Lions Club International. The focus on vision and hearing is especially fitting for Faribault, home to the Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and for the Blind.

 

Making pancakes at the 2015 breakfast. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

Serving up pancakes and sausage. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

Lions Club member Otto serves sausages. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

 

I love how Faribault Lions members and others, year after year after year, for 52 consecutive years, have sold tickets, flipped pancakes, fried sausages and more on Super Bowl Sunday. That’s dedication. That’s commitment. They showcase the best of Minnesota as a place of kind, caring and compassionate people, from rural to metro.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From the strange, but true: Coyotes for a cause January 26, 2018

Thousands gather each summer in Faribault for the Straight River Stroll to raise funds for cancer research and to remember, celebrate and pray for those touched by cancer. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

 

WHEN IT COMES TO RAISING money for cancer research and cancer support groups, I typically think of a cancer walk, silent auction or such. Not a hunt.

 

A hunter in a Minnesota field, used here for illustration purposes only. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

But a group in Blooming Prairie—just south of Owatonna—has organized the 1st Annual Coyotes “Fur” Cancer Fundraiser for this Saturday, January 27. A coyote hunt (yes, you read that right) coupled with a chili and soup feed, and a raffle will raise monies to help locals dealing with cancer.

On its Facebook page, event host The Cue Company restaurant promotes the fundraiser:

Enjoy the day by hunting coyotes with your comrades in your personal favorite spots. At dark bring all your coyotes to the back parking lot of The Blooming Prairie Cue Company for a group hunting picture. All coyotes will be collected and sold to a fur buyer with the profits being donated to The Blooming Prairie Cancer Group.

 

I photographed these bras dangling from Hotel Donaldson in downtown Fargo, North Dakota. “Bras on Broadway” raises funds for those fighting breast cancer and for the American Cancer Society. I like this creative idea to raise funds and awareness. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

 

Alright then. That’s certainly a creative idea, but not one which appeals to me personally. I do, though, appreciate the efforts of organizers and the end goal.

 

At the Rice County Steam and Gas Engines Show, this John Deere tractor helped raise cancer awareness. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.

 

Coyotes, by the way, are not a protected animal in Minnesota. They are, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, our state’s most abundant large predator. About 4,000 are shot or trapped here annually for their fur, described by the DNR as soft, warm and luxurious.

 

I’m uncertain whether White Fox Fur & Feather Company in Pemberton buys coyote pelts. But when I photographed the business in 2010, the company was looking for deer hides. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

 

I realize the threat coyotes pose to livestock and other animals. I’m struggling, though, with hunting coyotes as a fundraiser. It’s certainly a novel, attention-getting idea, but…

THOUGHTS?

UPDATE, 1:30 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2018: The Coyotes “Fur” Cancer Fundraiser raised $17,000 and counting, according to an article published in The Owatonna People’s Press. That far surpassed the goal of $2,000 – $5,000. Six hunting parties killed 24 coyotes. The animals’ fur will be sold with proceeds directed to The Blooming Prairie Cancer Group. Additional monies raised at the event came from a raffle, silent auction and chili and soup feed.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Ringing bells for charity & bonus holiday events December 8, 2017

 

RINGING BELLS for the Salvation Army stretches beyond simply accepting donations for a charity that does good in my community. It’s also an opportunity to bring joy to someone needing something as basic as a friendly greeting and a warm smile.

When I ring, I make eye contact with everyone approaching me. Not because I want to guilt anyone into giving. Rather, I want to welcome them with a smile, a good morning/afternoon and, most often, a Merry Christmas. That’s my nature, to be friendly. Whether an individual can, or chooses to, give, remains their personal choice. I understand the finances of the senior citizen who apologized for not giving, citing limited Social Security income and mounting medical bills. He didn’t have to explain. Those who can and want to give, will.

 

Randy and I rang bells together from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. Saturday, December 2, took a half hour break and then returned to ring bells solo at two locations for another two hours. A lack of bell ringers led us to pull a double shift. Donations on December 2 totaled $3,965 in Rice County, surpassing the $2,500 match by an anonymous donor. Of that county-wide total, $2,620 was dropped into red kettles in Faribault.

 

For the first time ever in my seasons of ringing bells, I watched as a woman emptied the bulging contents of her coin purse into the red kettle. Her gift meant as much as that of a 40-something guy who dropped a few coins in the slot and remarked that every coin counts. He’s right. From the $20 donation to the $1 bills and pennies shoved in by children, every gift holds value to help someone in need.

 

Two girls give to the Red Kettle Campaign during a past holiday season. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I am grateful for the generosity in the Faribault community ($2,620 on December 2) and especially for those young parents who parcel coins and bills into the hands of their little ones. When one of those children asked to ring the bell on Saturday, I obliged. That sparked an idea. Maybe next year I will hand the bell to every kid who donates and offer them a chance to ring for a moment. And I’ll continue with my tradition of handing out candy kisses to youth.

I will continue also to greet those I meet with friendliness, even if some react with unkindness, something I experienced for the first time this year. The meanness won’t deter me. I am determined to keep a positive attitude, to do the best I can as a volunteer, as a human being, to extend kindness to those I greet while stationed at the red kettle. If my smile can brighten one person’s day, then I am grateful.

FYI: If you are interested in volunteering with the Red Kettle Campaign in Rice County, call (507) 334-0639 or email faribaultbellringer at gmail.com, northfieldbellringer at gmail.com or lonsdalebellringer at gmail.com, depending on location. You can also sign up online at this link: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090f4dacab2faafd0-2017

Bell ringers are desperately needed as the local chapter strives to reach its goal of $50,000. As of Monday, donations totaled $10,478, according to Ed Little, co-chair of the local Red Kettle Campaign. Last Saturday in Rice County, an anonymous donor matched donations with a $2,500 gift. On December 15 and 16, an anonymous donor will once again match county donations, this time up to $5,000.

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LOOKING FOR SOMETHING to do in Faribault this weekend?

 

Skaters from Shattuck-St. Mary’s Figure Skating Center of Excellence presented a Christmas Spectacular on Ice in 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo. They’ll skate this Saturday during the Campus Christmas Walk.

 

The Faribault Woolen Mill hosts a Holiday Open House from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday featuring gourmet goodies, give-aways, store specials and more. Bring a Toys for Tots donation and get a free gift.

Pop into the historic Farmer Seed and Nursery to view the many beautiful themed Christmas trees with ornaments available for purchase. The store opens at 8 a.m. Saturday, closes at 5 p.m.

 

In the Shumway Hall entry hall, carolers sing for Christmas Walk guests in 2016. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

On the east side of Faribault, Shattuck-St. Mary’s School opens its campus to the public for the annual Campus Christmas Walk. The Saturday event begins at noon with a free Figure Skating Holiday Show in the sports complex. Following that, from 1 – 3 p.m., enjoy hot chocolate and cookies and ornament making and cookie decorating in Morgan Refectory. Nearby, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at The Inn from 1 – 4 p.m. Stop at Shumway Hall between 1 – 3 p.m. for a sleigh ride. And then end your campus visit by taking in the half hour Holiday Concert in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd beginning at 3 p.m.

 

One of the many creches from the collection of Kathleen Putrah now on display at the Paradise.

 

Pop into the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault’s historic downtown from 1 – 4 p.m. Saturday to shop at the Winter Farmer’s Market for locally-grown/raised produce/meats, baked goods and more. Also check out the work of local artists available for purchase in the PCA gift shop during the Holly Days Sale. Don’t miss the display of creches in the art gallery. And in the evening, take in “Coconuts and Mistletoe,” a holiday play performed by the Paradise Community Theatre beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. In this comedy, Santa conspires with spies to save Christmas.

In between all those events, be sure to shop at the the many home-grown businesses in our community.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Double your Red Kettle donations this Saturday in Rice County December 1, 2017

 

WHEN MARION CALLED to remind Randy and me of our Salvation Army bell-ringing slot this Saturday, she also shared good news. Every dollar donated to the Rice County Red Kettle Campaign on December 2 will be matched up to $2,500. How generous is that?

An anonymous donor from Faribault is offering the match, a move I hope encourages people to give even more generously to a program focused on neighbors helping neighbors.

The gift repeats on December 16 with a maximum $5,000 match from another anonymous Faribault donor, according to Gina Little who co-chairs the county campaign with her husband, Ed.

I’m confident folks can reach those max matches, moving toward the $50,000 Red Kettle goal in Rice County.

 

Randy and I will be at this location outside Walmart on Saturday morning ringing bells. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Saturday morning Randy and I will station ourselves at the Walmart north location to accept donations. We’re happy to once again volunteer with our church, Trinity Lutheran. Others from Trinity will ring at Walmart south, HyVee and Fareway in Faribault. Bell ringers are also on-site in Northfield and Lonsdale.

The weather forecast for Saturday looks to be a balmy 40-some degrees, ideal conditions for us as we stand outdoors to ring bells, greet and thank people. In past years we’ve worked in temps as low as zero. But, dressed appropriately for conditions, we managed.

 

Me, ringing bells for the Salvation Army in the past. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Ringing bells proves a joyful and humbling experience as we’ve witnessed gratitude, heard stories and observed parents teaching their children the joy of giving. I always come with a bag of Hershey kisses for the little ones, depositing a kiss in their tiny palms after they’ve pushed coins or bills into the kettle slot.

Eighty-eight percent of the donated monies stay right here in my county and go towards emergency services (gas vouchers, food, shelter, etc.), a heating program, “Shop with a Cop,” sending kids to a Salvation Army camp in northern Minnesota and a visiting program with the elderly in care facilities.

 

Two girls give to the Salvation Army during a past campaign. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

The need is great. Last year the Rice County Red Kettle Campaign fell short of its $50,000 goal with $43,000 raised. That meant cutting back on some services. But this year, especially with those $2,500 and $5,000 matches, I think we’re capable here in Rice County of reaching the $50,000 goal.

Please consider giving generously this Saturday and again on December 16 to push county-wide giving to those generous matches.

 

A friend rings bells at Walmart during a previous holiday season. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

And consider, too, signing up to ring bells. Call (507) 334-0639 or email faribaultbellringer at gmail.com, northfieldbellringer at gmail.com or lonsdalebellringer at gmail.com depending on where you wish to ring in Rice County.

You have the power to help your neighbor in this season of giving.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Walters wheels his way to help others September 29, 2017

 

HEADING SOUTH FROM HACKENSACK along Minnesota State Highway 371 on a recent Sunday, I spotted a colorful, over-sized wheel rolling along an adjacent trail. I fired off three frames with my camera—none of them particularly good images—and wondered.

I need wonder no more. Recent Twin Cities media coverage of Gary Walters’ fundraising efforts revealed the story behind what I’d seen and photographed in that fleeting on-the-road moment.

 

 

This Brainerd area insurance and finance man and the star of “That Guy Adventures aka Walters Wacky Adventures” today completes a 200-mile, 14-day round trip hamster wheel walk along the Paul Bunyan Trail from Brainerd to Bemidji and back. He’s raising monies for three charities—Kids Against Hunger—Brainerd Lakes Area; Confidence Learning Center; and Brainerd Public School Foundation.

I admire the efforts of this father of four and grandfather of five. It takes someone with creative ideas, a passion for helping others, an engaging personality, a sense of humor, physical stamina and more to pull off something like this.

 

The historic Brainerd water tower where Gary Walters once lived for nine days.

 

But this isn’t the first time Walters has challenged himself. Among his other adventures—living on the Brainerd water tower for nine straight days, 24/7; losing 100 pounds; and unicycling for 24 hours around the Brainerd High School track.

Yup, that Gary Walters, he’s quite a guy.

 

TELL ME: I’d like to hear about any especially creative charity fundraising efforts you’ve encountered through the years. Maybe even your own idea.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling