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Audrey’s Purple Dream enters 11th year

Michael and Linda Husby received good news on Linda’s cancer Monday. ‘It’s there, but inactive.’ Linda and Audrey Pidde were lifelong friends. ‘She was hilarious.’ (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Akeley’s signature winter event – Audrey’s Purple Dream (APD) – will send purple plungers and fishing lines into 11th Crow Wing Lake’s frigid waters Saturday to raise funds and spirits for those battling cancer.  Now in its 11th year, the APD has gifted approximately 90 people, with more than $80,000 distributed.  The event’s namesake, Audrey Pidde, was by daughter Shannah Pidde Geimer’s recollections fun loving, gregarious and generous.

“She was the mom everyone wanted.”  “She was the life of the party, hilarious,” Akeley resident Linda Husby and beneficiary of APD recalls of her childhood friend. “We grew up together, lived next door to one another. We’d call back and forth to see what was going on.”  “She’s a big reason this continues, and raises as much money as it has,” husband Michael Husby, who’s also battled cancer, said of Audrey’s legacy.  “She was one of those people you meet once and never forget,” Jana Dunham said of her aunt.  “She was known for her wiggle walk – barefoot spring, summer, fall and half the winter - and her 50-pound purse” (reportedly replete with a change of clothes, a 12-pack of beer and cigarettes.)  “Because you never know where you might end up,” was Audrey’s’ credo.

‘People just loved her’  Audrey Pidde was diagnosed with cancer in May 2004. That autumn, with a favorable prognosis, Audrey, son Nate and Shannah headed west to see Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.  But a week after Christmas, doctors determined the cancer had metastasized, dramatically. “It came back with a vengeance,” Shannah said.  The woman “who would go into debt to help her friends,” had a chum come to the rescue.  

The late Melissa “Nib” Niblick suggested the fundraiser.  Audrey was initially embarrassed, Shannah recalled.  “It’s in your honor,” Nib counseled, hoping the funds would send her to Alaska, a destination Audrey aspired to visit.  The first APD in February 2005 raised $10,000, Audrey setting off shopping to buy mementos for friends and family.  “She wanted something for us to remember her,” Shannah said.  And Audrey paid bills, “so relieved she wouldn’t have to burden Nate and me.”  Audrey died six weeks after the first “Dream,” hospice arriving shortly after the benefit.  The funeral Audrey assumed would be sparsely attended was met with a crowd that overflowed from the church to the outdoors. “It was overwhelming. People just loved her,” Shannah said.

‘Many more springs to go’  “She’d be 61 now,” said Linda, who has battled breast cancer and has now been diagnosed with an early stage 2 small cell carcinoma in her lower left lung. A chest x-ray in October detected the cancer, sending her down to Mayo Clinic three times and treatments in Bemidji.  This week, she was waiting on the results of a PET imaging scan.  “I’m very optimistic I’m going to beat this,” Linda said.  “You have to. Who’s going to clean the house?” Michael joked.  “Thank God for Audrey’s Purple Dream,” he said of the “help for us and a lot of other people.” The assistance paid for their gas and motels – and buoyed spirits.  “When you have a cancer diagnosis, you want to get it fixed and get on with your life,” Linda said.  “But it takes a year out or your life, or better,” Michael said.  “The best thing is to get back to work,” said Linda, who works in the Cass County administrator’s office.  Between the two of them, they’ve faced four rounds of cancer.  “We must be doing something right, because we keep coming back for more,” Michael said.  “Attitude is everything,” Linda said of advice she took to heart during her breast cancer treatment.  “They were right. I have many more springs to go.”

Exactly what she wanted   After Audrey succumbed to cancer, Nib, Shannah and others decided to continue the fundraiser.  But how do you choose one person who benefits? they questioned.  An idea evolved to raise funds for many in the area facing cancer. Initially, the goal was to send people on a trip, or grant another wish otherwise unattainable.  But now 90 percent of the funds granted go toward medical and travel expenses, Shannah said.  

A suggestion to establish an endowment through the Walker Area Foundation met approval, and the APD charitable funds continue to grow.  “I cry randomly,” Shannah said of mourning her mother. “I want to talk to her, especially as a grandma. She died before the girls (Carolynn Audrey and Chloe Susanne) were born. And I wish she’d met Jon,” she said of her husband.  Audrey’s Purple Dream “helps keep Mom alive for those of us who loved her,” she said.  “It’s had a domino effect. So many people, families who’ve been impacted by cancer (and benefited from APD) are now providing donations, memorials.  “It’s exactly what she would have wanted to happen,” Shannah said.    

Schedule The 11th annual “Answer to Cancer” will be held Saturday on 11th Crow Wing, Audrey’s Purple Dream events moving off the lake to Akeley VFW in the late afternoon.

     Raffle tickets are on sale at several locations for an Ice Castle 2015 Sport Angler fish house, valued at $12,000. Ticket ($5) sale sites include Akeley businesses, Smokey Hills Outdoor Store, Northern Convenience and T&M.

     The purchase of a $2 button throws your name in the hat for the $1,000 grand prize as well as numerous other prizes. Need not be present to win.

     The schedule includes fishing tourney registration from 10 a.m. to noon. There’s a $10 entry fee. The tournament runs from noon to 2: 30 p.m.

     APD raffle tickets and merchandise will be on sale “under the big top” (tent) on the lake from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

     Purple Plunge registration begins at 12:30 p.m. (20 are registered to date) with the big dip beginning at 3 p.m.

     The Akeley VFW will begin serving food at 4 p.m. Fishing tournament prizes and awards will be presented at the VFW at 4:30 p.m.

     Button raffle drawings begin at 6 p.m. with live music by Nate’s Fish from 8 p.m. to midnight.

     A “Paint the Town Purple” contest runs through Feb. 12, with first place receiving $150, second $100 and third $50. Prizes donated by the fire department will be announced at the 6 p.m. awards presentation.

     Last year’s event raised a record-breaking $33,626.