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CRAVE honors six individuals who exemplify what it means to truly be the “Heart of the Event.”

Photo by CRAVE Cares

» Michael Brennan

» Malana Schmidt

» Deb Krause

» Jason Deavalon

» Mary Younggren

» Lisa Korslund


CRAVE recognizes the importance of being a committed community partner, and we strongly believe in working with our neighbors to help improve the communities we serve.

As a result, we created CRAVE CARES in 2008, which has been an ongoing initiative that focuses on significant efforts to support organizations in our community. Our goal is to do everything within our power to support these organizations by hosting fundraising events, creating special menus to raise funds and awareness, making donations to silent auctions, and proudly sponsoring the CRAVE CARES “Heart of the Event” awards, recognizing local volunteers who go above and beyond the call of duty. In this article CRAVE honors six individuals who exemplify what it means to truly be the “Heart of the Event.”

Michael BrennanMichael Brennan

Washburn Center for Children

Depression, anxiety, and mental illness don’t discriminate based on age. They can affect every aspect of a young person’s life, resulting in social, emotional, and behavioral problems.

The Washburn Center for Children offers help and hope to youth through special programs and services. With early intervention, high-risk kids are less likely to fail academically, drop out of school, or become involved in the juvenile justice system.

Mike Brennan is passionate about helping kids who are “hurting on the inside,” and has volunteered countless hours to the Washburn Center for Children with one goal: to help those kids have the best possible start in life.

It was his idea to create the Washburn Games, a non-competitive “sports sampler” for kids ages 4-12 that not only introduces kids to new sports in a fun way, but also serves as a benefit for the nonprofit. In 2010—the event’s inaugural year—Mike helped gather volunteers, participants, and sponsors to raise more than $40,000 for the center.

Through his tireless advocacy and leadership, he has helped secure more sponsorship dollars and recruited more participants every year.

“For Mike, the bar of excellence can always be raised higher,” says Amy Pfarr Walker with the Washburn Center for Children. “He continues to bring leadership and vision to the planning committee, challenging the group to be better and work harder.”

“In the midst of chaotic and sometimes stressful event planning, Mike continually reminds us of the true reason behind our efforts,” Amy says. His regular mantra is ‘This is for the kids.’

Malana SchmidtMalana Schmidt

Twin Cities RISE!

Volunteers share their talents in many different ways. Malana Schmidt shares hers mostly behind-the-scenes with Twin Cities RISE!, a non-profit organization that trains participants—primarily men of color who have been living in deep, generational poverty—to earn and retain jobs with an annual living wage of at least $20,000. 

Malana has been on TCR’s board of directors for eight years, helping to build the nonprofit’s development function from scratch. She developed and implemented a strategic plan to raise vital funds for the organization in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner, hiring the first full-time development director, mentoring her in this newly created position, and chairing the development committee. Through overseeing and implementing effective fundraising strategies, Malana helped TCR build a development function of nothing to more than $2 million annually.

Over 600 individual donors and TCR’s well diversified funding base is a result of Malana’s stellar organizational and motivational skills and hard work. She absolutely believes in the cause and is an integral part of directing and kindling the board’s fundraising energies, first serving as development committee chair, then assuming responsibility as chair of the governance committee and vice chair of the board. 

Arthur Berman, president and CEO of TCR, says he appreciates her “can-do attitude and unflagging willingness to pitch in to help.”

“There is no task too large or small for Malana, from helping to develop and implement a fresh, new organizational strategy to stuffing envelopes, to supporting an event. She is wise, thoughtful, strategic, and insightful. She has been critical to our success.”

Deb KrauseDeb Krause

American Heart Association

Deb Krause’s involvement with the American Heart Association spans more than two decades. Over the years, she has shared her time, energy, and resources as chair of the board of directors for the Greater Midwest Affiliate, treasurer and chair of the corporate operations committee, and member of the workplace giving executive leadership team and national compensation and benefits committee.

Drawing on her professional expertise and experience as director of social responsibility with UnitedHealth Group, Deb was critical in helping forge a valuable partnership between the American Heart Association and United HealthGroup. Today UnitedHealth Group sponsors the Twin Cities Heart Walk, encourages employees to join the Twin Cities Heart Walk team (local employees have raised more than $600,000 over the past five years), and supports the national Start! Walking Paths program, helping establish over 19,000 safe, accessible walking paths throughout the United States.  

Now in Deb’s role as a principal and client manager at Mercer, she’s been a strong advocate for the company’s involvement with the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement created by women, for women, to raise awareness about heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women.  

“Deb is truly dedicated to helping us create a world free of heart disease and stroke,” says Meghan Perry with the American Heart Association. “Her goal in volunteerism has always been to make a difference—by providing the vision, inspiration, and actions necessary to make a measurable impact in the fight against heart disease.”


» Michael Brennan

» Malana Schmidt

» Deb Krause

» Jason Deavalon

» Mary Younggren

» Lisa Korslund


Jason DeavalonJason Deavalon

Smile Network International

As the owner of the Jason Deavalon Salon in Uptown and co-owner of The Wow Bar, a blow dry bar in the 50th and France area of Edina, Jason Deavalon is not only able to make his clients look beautiful, but also feel beautiful. He gives back in the local world of beauty, but also on an international level as a dedicated volunteer with Smile Network International, a Minnesota-based nonprofit humanitarian organization that provides life altering reconstructive surgeries to repair cleft lips and palates of impoverished children and young adults in developing countries.

Since 2007, he has made it his personal mission to help transform the lives of children born with a congenital deformity, sparing them a cleft lip/palate that could impact their self-esteem, social skills, and behavior, and feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and alienation from their peers. Jason has raised more than $200,000 for Smile Network through hosting unique events and dedicating the profits to the organization, and by raising money for surgical missions through completing treks along the Inca Trail in South America, Mount Everest in Asia’s Himalayan Mountain range, Mount Longonot in Africa, and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He has single-handedly raised more money for Smile Network through his treks and events than any other individual to date.

“Jason is dedicated to bringing out the best in everyone,” says Kim Valentini with Smile Network International. “He’s an incredibly giving man who goes above and beyond the call of duty to truly make a difference in the world.”

Mary YounggrenMary Younggren

Girl Scouts River Valleys

For 100 years, the Girl Scouts have been helping build girls of courage, confidence, and character. There are 3.2 million Girl Scouts today—2.3 million girl members and 890,000 adult members working primarily as volunteers, providing engaging and worthwhile activities in a supportive environment that respond to the needs of today’s girls.

One of those outstanding volunteers is Mary Younggren, a Girl Scout alumna, business leader, and member of the Women of Distinction Committee (honoring women for being positive role models in the community) and event committee for the Centennial Alumnae Networking Event.

Mary’s professional skills as owner of TempForce, a metropolitan staffing boutique and certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE), and her networking skills as president of the Minnesota Recruiting and Staffing Association (MNRSA) and member of The Woman’s Club of Minneapolis proved invaluable to the success of the event. Her advice on reaching out to women’s groups, her knowledge of networking and social events, and her ability to think strategically brought together more than 200 Girl Scout alumnae.

“She’s just an exceptional volunteer,” says Stephanie Klenk of Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys. “She brings an unparalleled touch of class and grace to everything she does.”

Mary’s involvement with the Girl Scouts has helped recognize extraordinary women in the community and reconnect them with the organization that first encouraged them to reach for the stars and achieve their dreams, and—in turn—inspire the next generation of girls to do the same.

Lisa KorslundLisa Korslund

Be the Match Foundation

Lisa Korslund of Edina was working for General Mills in Switzerland in June of 2010 when she was diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia—a fast-growing cancer of the white blood cells. She was told she needed a bone marrow transplant.

Two days after her diagnosis, she started chemotherapy and a search for a marrow donor was launched. Her siblings weren’t a match, so the search expanded on a global scale.

A few months later, Lisa returned to Minnesota for treatment at the Mayo Clinic, where a donor was found through the Be The Match registry. Be The Match operates the world’s largest listing of potential marrow donors and raises funds to help provide transplants to all patients through the Be The Match Foundation.

In an effort to help others heal, Lisa organized a team for the Be The Match Be The One Run, a 5K run/walk. As the captain, she rallied friends and family to raise $20,000 in 2011. Since then, her team, the MUD Bloods, has raised more than $35,000. Lisa, who is now cancer-free, has inspired more than 135 people to participate in the run.

“Lisa is not only a volunteer for Be The Match, she’s an ambassador,” says Jennifer Sutch with the Be The Match Foundation. “Her desire to give back to others in need of a transplant has helped Be The Match raise over $1 million at the Be The One Run events so that patients can receive the treatment and support they need.”

To find out how your organization can benefit from CRAVE Cares, please visit craveamerica.com/cravecares


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