Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Having fun for Gregory

April 6, 2009

A 5k run-walk to be part of ‘fun-raiser’ for 1-year-old with health complications from a birth defect

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

DASSEL-COKATO, MN - Runners and walkers are wanted for the first annual Gregory Manninen 5K Fun Walk-Run Saturday, April 18 in Cokato as part of the Gregory Manninen Fun-Raiser.

The 5K is part of a fund-raising event for the family of Gregory Manninen of Dassel, a 1-year-old boy who has been living with two rare conditions caused by the intestinal birth defect, gastroschisis.

Friends and family of the Manninen family had talked about having a benefit dinner for Gregory.

“However, the impetus that got the ball rolling was a call from Louise Kilpela one evening,” said Marty Fitzloff, aunt of Gregory’s father, Andrew.

Kilpela is Gregory’s great-grandmother.

“She phoned me and suggested that it’s time to get serious about having a fundraiser, and I agreed,” Fitzloff said.

“It took just a phone call or two and a few e-mails and we were off and running,” she said.

Betsy Niemela of Cokato is the aunt of Gregory’s mother, Julie. She offered the suggestion to get a 5K run-walk back into Cokato and have it in Gregory’s name.

This would be a “launching pad” for an annual run if there is enough interest, Niemela said.

Participants will begin at Good Shepherd Free Lutheran Church of Cokato at 10 a.m. sharp, and from there, take 60th Street to Broadway Avenue, turn east on 7th Street, then south on Oliver Avenue, back to the church.

The organizers wanted to make this a family event so it includes a mini-run for toddlers and children, along with prizes.

There will also be a chili feed from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a free-will donation, including treats from Morningstar Farm ice cream of Cokato with proceeds benefiting the Manninen family.

There will also be a variety of activity booths such as massage, face-painting, and a card- and jewelry-making class.

Music will be provided by Maria and Marcelo Borja, Niemela’s sister and Gregory’s great aunt.

The music is best-described by Niemela as a blend of classic country and Ecuadorian styles of music.

Several items will also be part of a silent auction including a week’s stay at Loot’s Lodge on Michigan’s Lake Superior, a round of golf for two at Willingers Golf Club in Northfield, four Twins tickets located behind home plate, a painting by Gino Hollander, one of the last living painters from the Abstract Expressionism era; and much more.

In addition, an autographed Kirby Puckett baseball and a 2008 Twins team autographed baseball will be raffled off, as well.

“It’s been a joyful journey for me,” said Niemela about organizing the event.

Not only is the “fun-raiser” a great way to raise funds for the Manninen family, but also a way for friends, family, and community members to show their support.

Everyone has been so willing to become involved through volunteering and donations despite the economy, Niemela said.

Those organizing the event are Laura Niemela of Buffalo, who is the sister of Andrew (Gregory’s father); and Shari Seifert of Dassel, who is Julie’s sister; along with Fitzloff and Niemela.

If anyone is interested in volunteering for the “fun-raiser,” contact Laura Niemela at (763) 670-6694 or lauraniemela@gmail.com.

Matching funds through Thrivent Financial have also been applied for.

Update on Gregory

In an article in the March 2 Enterprise Dispatch, Gregory’s mother, Julie (Niemela), described his birth defect.

“In utero, the baby’s intestines always form outside of the body. Normally, the abdominal wall will close around them before 14 weeks gestation age. But sometimes, something goes wrong and the abdomen doesn’t close completely, leaving the intestines outside of the body.”

Because of this, Gregory had to undergo surgery when he was just 2 weeks old.

As a result of his bowel being traumatized, Gregory was recently diagnosed with two rare conditions – protein-losing enteropathy and lymphangiectasia, making it difficult for him to fight infection.

Since the article was written, Grergory is home from Children’s Hospital and is in stable condition.

He continues to only be able to have specialized baby formula, which is very expensive, according to Julie’s sister, Shari Seifert.

Because it is difficult for him to fight infections, it prevents Gregory from being around other children except for his brother, Ethan.

Despite his medical complications, Gregory still acts like a typical 1-year-old, has reached his developmental steps, and has “spunk.”

Because this is such a rare disease, the goal of the “fun-raiser” is to help defer the cost and help the Manninens explore other medical alternatives that may be available, said Gregory’s aunt, Laura Niemela.

Gregory Manninen Fun-Raiser

The Gregory Manninen Fun-Raiser will take place Saturday, April 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Good Shepherd Free Lutheran Church, Cokato.

Registration for the 5K walk-run will begin at 9 a.m., with the walk-run starting at 10 a.m. sharp.

The entry fee for an individual is $20, or for a family, $25.

A chili feed with a free will donation will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Matching funds through Thrivent Financial have also been applied for.


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