There were no ice-fishing contests or polar plunge, but the 15th annual Audrey’s Purple Dream carried on regardless.
Fishing prizes as well as raffle prizes were presented to drawing winners Saturday at the Red River Event Center in Akeley, where food, drink and games lent a festive atmosphere to the area’s “answer to cancer.”
Audrey’s Purple Dream started in 2005 with Audrey Pidde, a local resident who wished for a trip to Alaska after receiving a cancer diagnosis. According to emcee Laura Powers, the community raised almost $10,000 for her in a short period of time, but she didn’t live to take it. Powers said Pidde was so moved by the groundswell of support that she wished for the charitable drive to continue.
“We’re talking about one person, one dream. Here we are, 15 years later,” Powers told the crowd. “We’re helping our friends, our families, our neighbors, our co-workers, live out their wishes and dreams. This had a huge impact on her life. I know it has an impact on yours. I know this is a personal event. In some way or another, we have all been touched by cancer.”
Michael O’Rourke, affectionately known as “the bald-headed Irishman,” has emceed Audrey’s Purple Dream in past years. This year, he attended as a cancer patient.
“He’s just coming to spend as much time with us as he can today, until he gets tired,” said Pidde’s daughter, Shannah Geimer.
“We are here to support him,” Powers said. “He has been here to support us for so many years.”
Called forward to speak, O’Rourke said, “There’s a lot of things in Akeley that I hold precious, and this is one.”
After all the awards he has handed out, he said, “There isn’t enough that we can do for the people who get struck by cancer. What it does to their lives. What it does to their families’ lives. We can’t help them enough. If I ever, ever appreciated Audrey’s Purple Dream before getting cancer, you can take that times about a millionfold after getting it.”
O’Rourke added, “I want you to all feel good about what you’re doing here. This is the best of the best of a small town.”
Geimer said Saturday’s event started a little slow, but by 6 p.m. it was “pretty packed. … People are still spending money and having fun, so it’s turning out as good as I could have expected.”
She said this was the first time the event was held entirely indoors. Nevertheless, early figures showed the event raised more than $22,500.
“I can’t stress enough the power of small communities and how we come together for stuff like this,” said Geimer. “The support that this organization has received from the surrounding communities, for 15 years now, is overwhelming. Every year you think, ‘Are people still going to come?’ and every year it’s full. We didn’t even have a tournament, and it’s packed in here.”
Big prize winners at the 2020 Audrey’s Purple Dream
Ice Castle fish house: Dan Rasmussen of Bemidji.
$1000 Grand Prize drawing: Jana Dunham of Akeley.
Big Fishing raffle prizes: Paddle board, Robert Johnson of Benedict; Frabill portable fish house, LInda Holk of Akeley; Jiffy eight-inch auger, Duane Pidde of Akeley.
$100 money vest: Tom Beckerleg of Akeley.
Mystery box: Sue and John Knouse of Akeley.
Paint the Town Purple contest winners: first place, Chelsea and Chris Powers, $150; second Place, Peggy and Roger Geimer, $100; third place, Bobbie and John Wosika, $50.