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Crave Cares: Together We Can Make a Difference

Crave Cares: Together We Can Make a Difference

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Photos L-R: © National MS Society; © Arc Greater Twin Cities;
Courtesy of Camp Odayin; Courtesy of Twin Cities Rise!

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


Kim ValentiniKim Valentini
Smile Network International

guage. But what about those who can’t smile—those who were born with cleft lips, cleft palates or other conditions requiring surgical intervention? The babies who don’t have access to modern health care or parents who can afford to pay for surgery? Are these kids destined to grow up feeling self-conscious, ashamed, and socially isolated?

Not if Kim Valentini, founder of Smile Network International, has a say in it. Since she left the corporate arena and launched Smile Network in 2003, she has been carrying out her life’s mission—to reconstruct lives, one bright, smiling face at a time.

Kim, a kind, bubbly, generous, ambitious and tenacious woman, believes that actions speak louder than words. In the past eight years, she has recruited hundreds of doctors and volunteers to help carry out her mission and traveled to remote, poverty-stricken villages in nine countries.

Through local efforts, Smile Network has developed international partnerships that enable volunteers to build trust in foreign countries. These global relationships provide Smile Network the opportunity to impart dignity and quality of life to individuals whose medical needs may otherwise go untreated.

According to Kim, “We are blessed to be able to do so much, for so little and dramatically change somebody’s life forever.”

Kim is making strides and changing lives every day. To date, she has met hundreds of families and children who have been forever changed as a result of the free reconstructive surgeries. New faces, better futures—now that’s something to smile about.

J. Marie Fieger

In the Fieger family, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. J. Marie learned the value of giving from her parents, June and Jim. Now her 12-year-old daughter, Emmie, is following in the Fieger tradition. Emmie recently took it upon herself to raise money for Bridging—a nonprofit organization that distributes furniture and household goods to individuals and families in transition—by performing tasks around the neighborhood—clearly taking after her mom by helping those in need.

For the past 13 years, J. Marie, the president of the advertising and PR firm Nemer Fieger, has been involved with Bridging. She served on the board of directors for many years and continues to support the Annual Subway Bedrace for Bridging and Bring a Blanket Drive, utilizing a talent for cause marketing, her sunny disposition, and innovative thinking to spur others to action. “J. Marie is an inspiration and has made a difference for thousands of people in need in the Twin Cities,” says Sara Sternberger of Bridging.

Gifts of donated furniture and household goods can be life-changing for someone who is transitioning out of poverty and into permanent housing, someone who is working hard to make ends meet, someone who has absolutely no money for furnishings.

“Bridging gives people dignity and choice,” J. Marie comments.

After being blessed with a wonderful family life of her own, J. Marie wants others to have the opportunity to share meals around the table, cuddle with their kids on the couch, and tuck their loved ones into bed at night—those little actions that transform a house into a home.

Janel Goff
Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

Janel Goff is passionate about education, especially when it comes to women and their finances. She educates women in her job as a consultant at The Goff Group Global Wealth Management, during monthly “Invest in Yourself” networking luncheons, as a featured speaker at Fortune 500 companies, and by supporting The Hope Chest for Breast Cancer, an organization that helps financially challenged women with breast cancer pay their rent, utilities, and childcare so they can focus on getting well. It’s bad enough having cancer, and it’s the goal of the Hope Chest to lift financial burdens for those diagnosed.

The Hope Chest business model is a combination of a not-for-profit foundation and for-profit retail stores that help fund emergency financial assistance programs in hospitals, treatment centers, clinics, and other human service organizations for local under-served women in the Twin Cities area experiencing breast cancer.

The Hope Chest depends on annual events to help raise money for the Foundation, including the Putt for the Pink Golf Classic, now in its seventh year. It was Janel and her husband, Brian, who came up with the idea of a golf tournament; and it is Janel and Brian who take great pride hosting the tournament every year.  For seven years, they have brought together a wonderful team of people and motivated them to make a difference by having fun and raising money for Hope Chest.

“Janel is a very caring and giving person,” says Susan Wineland of Hope Chest. “She has dedicated a portion of her time and resources to making a difference in the community.”

Bruce Gunderson
Mud Run Multiple Sclerosis Twin Cities

The Twin Cities Mud Run is not your typical weekend footrace, unless “typical” means slogging through a mud pit, climbing up hills, and being blasted by a hose down a giant slip ‘n slide. The 10K adventure race is a team fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Minnesota Chapter and is as ridiculously fun as it is challenging.

One of the driving forces behind this event is volunteer Bruce Gunderson, who made the first Mud Run possible in 2010 by fostering relationships between the National MS Society, Trollhaugen Ski & Snowboard Resort, and the Minnesota 4-Wheel Drive Association, of which he serves as president. He not only spent two weeks camping at Trollhaugen while building the obstacle course, he secured in-kind donations (including some of the tools and materials necessary for the course) and recruited 15 of his off-roading friends to provide transportation to volunteers the day of the event, then supervised those volunteers. His group of friends took it a step further by paying for radio rentals during the Mud Run so that volunteers could be well-connected should they need to radio for help.

According to Anna Kucera with the National MS Society, Minnesota Chapter, Bruce is “incredibly generous and hardworking, expects nothing in return for his efforts, and makes it his job to see that everyone around him has a great time at this event.”

Most participants who finish the race cross the muddy finish line with huge smiles on their faces. And whether they realize it or not, Bruce Gunderson has a lot to do with that.

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