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More than 1,300 attend Make-A-Wish benefit in Dickinson

“It’s very special for those children to be standing on the stage and have all those people supporting them. To me, that’s the coolest part of the whole event is when they’re up there and they’re looking out, knowing that they have the support from an entire community," Dickinson Noon Lions President Kelly Braun said.

Kinzlee, left, holds close to her heart a teddy bear and quilt she was given by Iggy Weigel, right, who won the auction item during the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit on Saturday, March 19, 2022, at the West River Ice Center in Dickinson. Kinzlee, who is a wish child, is still awaiting for her wish to be revealed.
Kinzlee, left, holds close to her heart a teddy bear and quilt she was given by Iggy Weigel, right, who won the auction item during the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit on Saturday, March 19, 2022, at the West River Ice Center in Dickinson. Kinzlee, who is a wish child, is still awaiting for her wish to be revealed.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON — Approximately 1,300 people showed their support for Make-A-Wish North Dakota this past weekend as the area’s annual fundraiser continues to bring the communities of southwest North Dakota together in an effort to make a difference for children battling life threatening illnesses.

The Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit kicked off Saturday at the West River Ice Center with a silent and live auction, build-your-own taco, bouncy castles and even a wish revealing toward the end of the evening. For the past 20 years, the Dickinson Noon Lions have been able to raise awareness and education on Make-A-Wish and it wouldn’t have been possible without the community, President Kelly Braun said.

“It’s very humbling to feel the support that the public gives to our organization. It’s also very invigorating because when you’re doing it, it re-energizes a person for granting wishes and raising the dollars for the next year,” Braun said. “It’s very special for those children to be standing on the stage and have all those people supporting them. To me, that’s the coolest part of the whole event is when they’re up there and they’re looking out, knowing that they have the support from an entire community.”

Holding his new fishing pole, Findley, center, comments on how excited he is to hear his wish come true as Dickinson Noon Lions President Kelly Braun, right, holds a microphone and fellow member Eric Ewoniuk looks on Saturday, March 19, 2022, during the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit at the West River Ice Center. Ewoniuk was one of the wish granters for Findley, whose wish is to have a camper.
Holding his new fishing pole, Findley, center, comments on how excited he is to hear his wish come true as Dickinson Noon Lions President Kelly Braun, right, holds a microphone and fellow member Eric Ewoniuk looks on Saturday, March 19, 2022, during the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit at the West River Ice Center. Ewoniuk was one of the wish granters for Findley, whose wish is to have a camper.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

The next local wish recipient is young Findley, who was diagnosed in November of 2020 with blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm — which is an extremely rare and aggressive type of cancer. During Saturday’s event, Findley, of Grassy Butte, was welcomed on stage by Braun and Dickinson Noon Lions member Eric Ewoniuk.

“We told him his wish is coming true and his wish is to have a camper. We didn’t give him the camper that night, so that is coming,” Braun said. “... Now we didn’t tell him when and where and how — just that he’ll be getting a camper.”

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While revealing Findley’s wish, he was given a fishing pole that stems from the very beginning traces of how Make-A-Wish came to be. For Braun, that was one of the most awarding parts of the night.

Make-A-Wish America was established by a group of people more than 40 years ago when Linda Pauling’s son, Chris Greicius, became diagnosed with leukemia. Despite dealing with a life-threatening illness, Chris was just like any other 7-year-old boy — energetic and daring. He longed to become a motorcycle police officer. So the Arizona State Patrol made Chris their first and only honorary Arizona State Patrol Trooper.

Since Chris’ passing, Make-A-Wish has granted hundreds of thousands of life-changing wishes to children who are battling critical illnesses. Pauling’s husband made the fishing pole for Saturday's wish reveal, with Findley’s name and Make-A-Wish engraved on the rod.

“In my eyes, it’s kind of like the father of Make-A-Wish gave him that pole,” Braun said. “... He was definitely excited for the camper to come along. He’s looking forward to camp fires especially with roasted marshmallows and he wants to go fishing and spend time with his family camping.”

Kelly Braun, Dickinson Noon Lions president, shakes the hand of Dickinson Eagles Club General Manager Doug Pasicznyk as he hands over a $15,000 check for Make-A-Wish North Dakota on Saturday, March 19, 2022, at the West River Ice Center during the annual Dickinson fundraiser for the organization.
Kelly Braun, Dickinson Noon Lions president, shakes the hand of Dickinson Eagles Club General Manager Doug Pasicznyk as he hands over a $15,000 check for Make-A-Wish North Dakota on Saturday, March 19, 2022, at the West River Ice Center during the annual Dickinson fundraiser for the organization.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Though the Dickinson Noon Lions are still totaling the numbers, Braun noted that the annual event raises more than $150,000 each year. The Dickinson Eagles Club also donated a $15,000 check to the cause.

Each year, the event takes a tremendous amount of volunteerism and passion, Braun said, adding a special shout out to the Dickinson State University softball team who helped with setup, running the bouncy castles and clean-up.

“The Dickinson Noon Lions would just like to thank the area for supporting us in helping Make-A-Wish North Dakota grant wishes to these children,” he added.

Al Schoch auctions off sale items during the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit on Saturday, March 19, 2022, at the West River Ice Center.
Al Schoch auctions off sale items during the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit on Saturday, March 19, 2022, at the West River Ice Center.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press
Jason Thier emcees the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit on Saturday, March 19, 2022, at the West River Ice Center.
Jason Thier emcees the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit on Saturday, March 19, 2022, at the West River Ice Center.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press
Wish child Kinzlee holds up an auction paddle Saturday, March 19, 2022, during the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit at the West River Ice Center.
Wish child Kinzlee holds up an auction paddle Saturday, March 19, 2022, during the Make-A-Wish North Dakota Benefit at the West River Ice Center.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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