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Woodbury teen focus of Saturday benefit event

Drew Macke, a Lake Middle School eighth grader, is the focus of a fundraiser set for Saturday afternoon in Oakdale. (Submitted photo)

Community members will come together this week to support a Woodbury teenager afflicted by a rare medical condition that has required dozens of surgeries.

A benefit will be held Saturday, April 5, at Hope Church in Oakdale for the family of Drew Macke. The 14-year-old Lake Middle School student was diagnosed at birth with Vater Association, a conglomeration of medical conditions that have only intensified as his condition has grown more complex.

To date, Macke has undergone 57 surgeries of varying severity.

But you’d never know how much he’s endured by talking to the eighth-grader, a family friend said.

“I never, ever, ever hear him complain,” said Kelly Grundhauser, whose sons are friends with Drew.

She organized the event, which runs 3-7 p.m. Saturday, and is hoping for a big turnout. The carnival-style benefit looks to engage families.

Grundhauser said she wanted to be sure the event is something Macke would approve of, so she’s doing her best to make it “cool, hip and trendy.” Activities will include a “slow-motion” booth, a “selfie station” linked up with Instagram and food that Macke and his buddies would dive into.

“We’re not doing spaghetti – we’re doing tacos,” she said.

Among items available through auctions and raffles are a 2014 Chevrolet Equinox, weekend adventures, bicycles, snowboards and a dinner with a private chef.

All proceeds go to the Drew Macke Foundation.

In all, organizers hope to raise $100,000 for the foundation, which Macke has said hopes will also help other children suffering from chronic illness.

“They’re an amazing family,” Grundhauser said. “I want them never to have to make a decision between money and surgery.”

She organized 200 volunteers to help with different aspects of the event.

The financial impact over the years on the Macke family has been “huge,” she said, and there’s no sign of it relenting. The family is preparing for two major surgeries this year – one at Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, the other at Columbia University Hospital in New York City.

The complexity of Vater Assocation means Macke has to visit specialists across the country.

“It’s ongoing,” Grundhauser said. “I don’t see this ending anytime soon.”

Meanwhile, she said Macke tries his hardest to lead a semblance of normal teenager’s life: A longtime ballplayer through the East Ridge baseball program, he hopes to return to the ballfield later this year.

Grundhauser said she’s touched not just by Macke’s resiliency through it all, but his ability to keep a positive, playful mindset. She recalled an instance when a hospitalized Macke alerted a nurse to his bed. The nurse arrived to find a Macke ambushing her with a set of fake, comical teeth.

Grundhauser said Macke’s humble, gracious spirit has made the benefit event a labor of love.

“I talk about him now and I cry,” she said. “I know what a wonderful young man he is.”

More information about the event and the Drew Macke Foundation is available at

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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