Guy Milbrath of Mankato is 12 years old, and for his entire lifetime he has faced an uphill battle.
“Guy was born prematurely at 26 weeks and spent his first four months of life in the hospital,” said Kelly Milbrath, his mom, adding he has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and chronic lung disease.
Unable to walk or talk, Milbrath remains what his family calls a “happy boy.”
“He loves chocolate,” said Kelli. “He sings and laughs.”
As parents Kelli and his dad, Justin, have looked for ways to help their son enjoy life to the fullest.
“We have been to lots of amusement parks, and not one them had handicapped accessible rides,” said Kelli.
Then they found Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas, which is the first theme park in the world that was built with special needs children in mind.
“Guy is excited to go to Texas,” said Kelli. However, a trip like the Milbraths are taking does not come cheap, and without a little help the family never would have been able to make plans to make the trip to Texas.
That is where a local program has stepped in to make Guy’s dream a reality.
Called the Angel Fund, the program has been in existence since 2003, and in nearly 15 years it has helped 37 children and young adults by making their dreams come true.
The Angel Fund was established by Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel, and the primary source of funding for its gifts is the people who work there.
“We have 700 employees at the casino,” said Marcia Dolezal, Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel executive administrative assistant. “Their donations make the Angel Fund possible.”
The Angel Fund is similar to the Make-A-Wish program, as it provides the funding to help those it is impacting by giving them their dream come true, whether that be a trip to Disneyland, a playhouse or attending a professional sporting event.
“Our first recipient was Carl Robinson,” said Dolezal, adding his family was able to travel to Disneyland in Florida through a gift from the Angel Fund.
Every year since 2003 gifts have been made, and according to Dolezal, a total of $168,424 has been gifted through the Angel Fund.
Funds are raised throughout the year by the employees, said Dolezal, but the big fundraising event for the year is a golf tournament held at Dacotah Ridge golf course each summer. That fundraiser was held July 27.
“This is such a great event,” said Gabe Prescott, Jackpot Junction general manager. “It’s a lot of fun to be part of this when you know what you are doing is being used for a great cause.”
For Prescott, the Angel Fund is about giving back, especially to those who are less fortunate in their time of need.
“The golf tournament is about having fun. It’s not all that competitive,” said Prescott, who added he has been able to play in it in the past and always enjoyed the atmosphere. There were 25 teams that played in the best ball tournament, with the majority of the players made up of employees of the casino and the vendors and sponsors who helped make the event possible.
However, added Prescott, it is open to the public. There are times, said Dolezal, when the funds are also used to help fellow employees in their times of need.
“With 700 employees we know there are going to be times among our own who are going to be in need,” said Dolezal, adding it is great to know they have the ability through the Angel Fund to help them, too.
This year, including Milbrath, there were five young people who will benefit from Angel Fund dollars, including:
• Sierra Hartung is a 12-year-old from Brainerd who has cerebral palsy, deafness, epilepsy and developmental delays. She struggles with seizures, and through the Angel Fund is having her home prepared for a seizure dog she will be receiving next year.
• Behr Vogelpohl, who is four and lives in Cokato, was diagnosed with Lennox Gastaunt disease and struggles with 10-100 seizures every day. He recently underwent brain surgery to help lessen the occurrence of the seizures and suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed on the right side of his body. He is going to receive a special needs trike and an area where he can ride it.
• Olivia Schwerr is six and lives in Mounds View. She was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma Dec. 24, 2016. She has been undergoing several sessions of chemotherapy. Her wish is to visit her cousins in Ashburn, Va.
• Brody Wenisch is five and lives in Springfield. He was born with clubfoot and has a connective tissue disorder that causes his hips and joints to go out of their sockets. He has been through multiple surgeries in his life. His wish is to attend a Minnesota Wild hockey game and possibly meet his idol, Nino Niederreiter.
Application information is available through the Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel Web site, and additional information is also available on its Facebook Page.
On behalf of her son, Kelli Milbrath expressed heartfelt gratitude for making Guy’s wish come true.
“We want to thank all of the people who participate in the Angel Fund,” said Kelli. “We are extremely grateful for this gift. Without it there is no way we ever would have been able to go.’