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'Healing process': Dickinson Noon Lions to host annual Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit

“I hope to see an event that's full of people that are enjoying themselves and bring their family out and (are) having a good time. I hope to see our area wish children — both past and present — to be smiling and knowing that the community is there for them,” Dickinson Noon Lions President Kelly Braun said.

Dickinson Noon Lions President Kelly Braun, right, introduces area wish children on stage during the 2021 Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit. On March 19, 2022, the Dickinson Noon Lions will host the annual Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit at the West River Ice Center to continue granting wishes for children with life threatening illnesses.
Dickinson Noon Lions President Kelly Braun, right, introduces area wish children on stage during the 2021 Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit. On March 19, 2022, the Dickinson Noon Lions will host the annual Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit at the West River Ice Center to continue granting wishes for children with life threatening illnesses.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON — For the past 20 years, Dickinson Noon Lions has been able to raise awareness for Make-A-Wish North Dakota and play a role in granting wishes to children with life threatening illnesses. The local organization aims to continue its track record with the upcoming Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit.

The annual fundraiser begins at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 19, with free ice skating until 5:30 p.m. at the West River Ice Center. From 4 to 8 p.m., a silent auction, build-your-own taco, jumping castles, face painting and entertainment by Josh Kehr will follow at the WRIC. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children 6 to 12 years old and free for those 5 years old and under.

Dickinson Noon Lions President Kelly Braun said that they’re hoping for a crowd of roughly 1,200 this year, which is typically the average turnout.

“I hope to see an event that's full of people that are enjoying themselves and bring their family out and (are) having a good time. I hope to see our area wish children — both past and present — to be smiling and knowing that the community is there for them,” Braun said. “... When we started this event, we didn't have any wish granters; we were just a Lions Club trying to help out. We had no idea on what could be done or couldn't be done and we were just trying to raise money.”

A large attendance is shown during the Make-A-Wish Benefit in May of 2021 at the West River Ice Center.
A large attendance is shown during the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit in May of 2021 at the West River Ice Center.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

What started out at the Dickinson Eagles Club has transitioned to the West River Ice Center. During its inaugural year, the event raised $7,500, but has since grown to draw more than $150,000 each year.

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A Make-A-Wish balloon is pictured.
A Make-A-Wish balloon is pictured.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

In the beginning, the purpose of this benefit was to raise money and awareness for Make-A-Wish North Dakota. Somewhere in the middle of this 20-year journey, Braun said that intent changed, focusing more so on educating the community about the cause and how it impacts wish children. Built on granting wishes for children — between 2.5 and 18 years old — with life threatening medical conditions, Braun explained that it’s not always for those with terminal illnesses.

“I had a wish mom that was on the board with me (who) told us, ‘Make-A-Wish is not just a wish that's fun. Make-A-Wish is part of the healing process,’” he recounted. “And that's what she felt with her daughter was all the positivity that they got from Make-A-Wish. From being a wish child, from thinking about what she wanted to do, go or get created just more and more positive vibes and allowed her child to heal.”

Though some parents feel like it’s giving up on their child, Braun said Make-A-Wish North Dakota is about making a child feel human again and he hopes continued education and awareness will shine light on that matter to encourage more parents to consider the cause.

At the 2021 Make-A-Wish Benefit at the West River Ice Center, Dickinson Noon Lions President Kelly Braun speaks during the silent auction. Braun said he's hopeful for a large attendance to come out and support the annual fundraiser for Make-A-Wish North Dakota on March 19, 2022.
At the 2021 Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit at the West River Ice Center, Dickinson Noon Lions President Kelly Braun speaks during the silent auction. Braun said he's hopeful for a large attendance to come out and support the annual fundraiser for Make-A-Wish North Dakota on March 19, 2022.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

For the past 20 years, Braun has been a part of a large volunteer group to make children’s wishes come true and it’s something that never gets old.

“When they walk in, they’re 6-foot-10 and bulletproof. You can just see how they walk in and it’s just like, ‘This is for me. This is about me. This is my event.’ When they stand up on the stage and they look out at that crowd, you can feel them going, ‘All these people are here for me.’ They’re like superstars,” he said, adding, “… That’s the cool part about it is because those kids need another little shot of positivity in their lives that that event provides.

“If you walk through and you see the stars on the floor with their names on them, I have a guy that’s 40 years old that takes a picture with his star every year. He is not a child and he is just so damn proud of his star being there.”

For more information on the event, contact Braun at 701-590-0665.

Community members and local law enforcement are shown at the 2021 Make-A-Wish Benefit at the West River Ice Center.
Community members and local law enforcement are shown at the 2021 Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit at the West River Ice Center.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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