Medical bills mount for 14-year-old with VATER association


Drew Macke, a 14-year-old boy from Woodbury, has VATER association, a rare genetic condition that requires frequent surgeries and ongoing treatment. Friends who know Drew describe him as a "remarkable kid" who "never complains" about his health problems. (Submitted photos
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The Mackes, from left to right, are Abby, Rich, Luke, Holly and Drew. They have been members of Hope Church of Oakdale for more than 13 years, and the congregation will be hosting a benefit for the Drew Macke Foundation on Saturday, April 5, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Hope Church of Oakdale hosting April 5 benefit

Drew Macke is a remarkable kid.

That's what the people who know him say, and it's not hard to see why.

Drew, a 14 year-old boy from Woodbury, was born with a rare condition called VATER association. VATER association is a "grouping of different anomalies," according to Dr. Mary Wild Crea, a pediatrician from Fairview Clinic in Rosemount. She has been caring for Drew since he was about 3 months old.

Children with VATER association have birth defects that require ongoing, specialized care, treatment, therapy and surgery. Since he was born, Drew has undergone over 50 medical procedures.

"I've been practicing for 20 years and there's nobody who even comes close to [having] had as many surgeries as he has," Wild Crea says. "He's had more than any kid I've ever seen in my practice."

Drew has an average of one to two surgeries per year, although this year that might become three. Earlier this month Drew and his parents, Holly and Rich, traveled to New York City for a surgery at Columbia University Medical Center.

Staying strong

Despite his difficult health problems, the people who know Drew say he "never complains." Aside from his medical issues, he's a regular kid who loves baseball, snowboarding and church youth activities.

"What you think he shouldn't be able to do he does," says family friend Kelly Grundhauser.

"He is really an inspiration because of the challenges he's faced and how he has handled them," adds the Rev. John Larson, senior pastor of Hope Church of Oakdale.

Drew and his family have been members of Hope Church for about 13 years, ever since they moved to Minnesota shortly after Drew was born. They've been very involved in the church community throughout the years, helping out with youth ministry, worship team, small groups and working behind the scenes in caring for individuals, according to Larson.

"Typically, these kinds of [medical] challenges cause families to hibernate and withdraw," he said. "The [Mackes] have done quite the opposite. They have given, and they have cared right in the middle of their own trials and frustrations."

Church members have been supportive of the family throughout the years, but now they're looking to go a step further.

On Saturday, April 5, Hope Church of Oakdale will host a benefit and silent auction for the Drew Macke Foundation. The "youth-focused" event will feature facepainting, a slow-motion booth, a professional "selfie" station and more.

The live and silent auctions were inspired by some of Drew's favorite things, and include a snowboard, Minnesota Wild gear and a Vikings' helmet signed by Christian Ponder.

The event should be entertaining for adults as well. Vacation packages to California and Branson are up for auction, Aqua Vitae is hosting wine plinko, and there will be a big ticket drawing for a 2014 Chevy Equinox.

"We have a lot of really cool things," said Grundhauser, who is coordinating the event.

Support in more ways than one

Grundhauser has been a friend of the family for more than nine years. Her twin boys, Jacob and Nicholas, met Drew at early-childhood education.

She started the Drew Macke Foundation this year to raise money and support for the family.

Drew's medical care is expensive, and Grundhauser hopes the fundraiser will relieve some of the family's financial burden.

"I don't want the money to be the reason they are or are not doing the surgery," she said.

Apart from the fundraiser, the foundation has been raising money through a number of events in the community, including a grocery store bagging fundraiser in Woodbury on March 23.

The money raised by the Drew Macke Foundation will help more than just the Macke family.  At Drew's request, a portion of the proceeds will go to other kids with chronic illnesses.

More than anything, Grundhauser hopes the fundraisers will show the Macke family how much the community cares for them.

"The love I feel for this family is what pushed me to start this foundation," she said. "I want them to know how much they're loved and that we will be here to support them."

The April 5 benefit is from 3 to 7 p.m. and is open to the public. Tickets are $10 and include a taco buffet and a raffle ticket.

For more about the Drew Macke Foundation, visit their Facebook page or drewmackefoundation.com.

 

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