Big crowd boosts Benefit for Joshua

There were so many people packed into the VFW at times on Sunday that it was tough to even turn around. The result of all that togetherness was a boost to the spirits of Joshua Guimond’s family and thousands of dollars to continue the search for the missing St. John’s college student, who disappeared without a trace on November 9.

The event featured a pork chop dinner, silent auction music, meat raffles and an opportunity for area residents to show their support for Joshua’s parents, Brian Guimond and Lisa Cheney, both of Maple Lake.

In addition, visitors to the VFW on Sunday included Patty Wetterling, whose son, Jacob, was abducted 13 years ago. Later in the afternoon Hoover, the bloodhound used to track Joshua on the St. John’s campus, made an appearance courtesy of his owner and handler, Penny Bell. And a television crew from KMSP-TV captured some of the action for its Sunday newscast.

But the big news from the benefit was the over $21,000 that was raised through the dinner, auction, button sales, and donations. Silent auction organizer Mary Jo Miceli said that figure will continue to grow as a number of auction items remain to be claimed and proceeds from the meat raffles are added.

Miceli said she was amazed at the number of items businesses and individuals contributed for the auction.

“Donations came in from all over,” she said. “The hall almost seemed too small. It was just phenomenal the gifts that were given to us.”

Miceli said the dinner organized by Judy Jude was just as successful, serving an estimated 850 to 900 dinners. Pork chops for the dinner were cooked by the Sons of the American Legion crew headed by Tom Lauer, with spices provided by Bob Jude, and Grace Kleven handling the rest of the dinner preparations.

Words of thanks were also offered by Miceli for the sponsorship of Holy Cross Lutheran Church and the church’s many volunteers, along with other members of the community who added to the estimated volunteer total of more than 100. She said Jamie Fisher of Monticello, who lent her expertise and time, was a big reason for the success of the silent auction. And the entertainment for the benefit was contributed by Second Hand Halo, Echo Union and D. J. Karaoke.

“This was not a one-man show,” Miceli said. “From start to finish, no one hesitated on volunteering or giving.”

Miceli also had praise for the Maple Lake VFW.   “Karen and Dan Albrecht and staff at the VFW were phenomenal,” she said. “They were so, so helpful and did more than just donate the club. They were helping and their constant presence was great.”

And all the people who took time out of their busy day to attend the benefit were the key to success.

“I’m so proud of Maple Lake,” Miceli said, adding how pleased she was to have played a part in the Find Joshua Benefit.

“I had a great time doing it and it was a great experience,” she said. “Joshua’s parents are my neighbors and friends and Joshua was a special, special man.”