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Because of Brandon: Fundraiser to support diabetes education set for July 30

CROSBY--Each time Phil Collins' 1985 song "Take Me Home" comes on the radio, Doug Houge is reminded of his son Brandon. Although born nearly two decades after Collins' musical career with the band Genesis began, the musician was one of Brandon's ...

Brandon Houge was a 2006 Crosby High School graduate and the son of Crow Wing County Commissioner Doug Houge. He died in December 2015 from complications associated with Type 1 diabetes. A fundraiser to benefit diabetes education in his memory will take place July 30 in Crosby. Submitted photo
Brandon Houge was a 2006 Crosby High School graduate and the son of Crow Wing County Commissioner Doug Houge. He died in December 2015 from complications associated with Type 1 diabetes. A fundraiser to benefit diabetes education in his memory will take place July 30 in Crosby. Submitted photo
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CROSBY-Each time Phil Collins' 1985 song "Take Me Home" comes on the radio, Doug Houge is reminded of his son Brandon.

Although born nearly two decades after Collins' musical career with the band Genesis began, the musician was one of Brandon's favorites.

"I still to this day won't figure it out, but Brandon and his buddies were all huge Phil Collins fans," Houge said. "It seemed to be a little bit out of their timeline as far as music, but they'd get together and just jam to Phil Collins music."

Houge never expected he'd be requesting inclusion of "Take Me Home" from the priest presiding over his son's funeral Mass. Brandon died suddenly, five days before Christmas 2015, at his Duluth home. An autopsy of the 27-year-old Type 1 diabetic showed he died from diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition arising from high blood sugar levels.

Houge said his son was a fitness and health enthusiast and took good care of himself, but he was not always consistent in testing his blood. He speculated his son thought he was experiencing low blood sugar-the symptoms of which are similar-and sought to correct that with a sugary beverage, instead exacerbating the sugar levels in his blood.

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"Juveniles, as well as young adults, just need a friendly reminder of how quickly things can get out of control with this," Houge said. "It was very quick in Brandon's case."

Houge said it was not long after his son's death that he knew he wanted to turn his family's personal tragedy into something positive for others-by raising funds to support families with diabetic children and efforts to increase awareness through education on the disease.

"Any parent that loses a child has good days. Well, I don't know if there's good days, but there's some not-so-good days and there's some terrible days," Houge said. "It just takes time. But I found with this, at least, we're making something good out of a tragedy."

What began as an idea for a raffle quickly snowballed into a multi-event fundraiser as those from the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center, where Brandon was diagnosed as a 14-year-old, became involved. That fundraiser, Because of Brandon, is set to take place on July 30 in Crosby, the same day as the Power Boat Races on Serpent Lake. In planning the event, organizers said they were hoping for something for everyone. This includes a family fun event with games, contests, face painting, a dunk tank and more in Crosby Memorial Park. At the Crosby Bar and Grill, which Houge owns, several events are planned beginning at 3 p.m.: a silent auction, a "mega" meat raffle, a wine and craft beer tasting, the "Heartland BBQ" and a street dance.

One of the silent auction items has a special, personal significance in memory of Brandon. This winter, as the planning first began, Houge was inspired to write a letter to Collins, explaining his son's fandom and asking for a donation for the event. Houge explained what happened months later as he sat at his desk at the bar.

"It was kind of a spooky thing," he said. "The song (Take Me Home) came on the radio. You always think about it. As the song started playing, the postman came in and handed me a package from London."

Inside was a letter from the musician offering his condolences, along with an autographed photo. Houge said they've framed the photo and it will be one of the nearly 80 items offered in the silent auction.

"It was pretty generous, and had more of a personal touch to it," Houge said.

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All proceeds earned from the events will support the diabetes education program at CRMC along with funds to offer monetary support for families with newly diagnosed children and scholarships for local diabetic children to attend Camp Needlepoint, an American Diabetes Association summer camp in Hudson, Wis.

Heather Erickson, a dietician and diabetes educator at CRMC, said this is the first time a fundraiser specifically supporting the program has occurred.

"It's been wonderful, the response we've gotten from the community and the staff," Erickson said. "For us, too, as a department, we recognize how important the education piece to diabetes is. A lot of times people think diabetes is you have to eat a certain way. Yes it is, but that is actually a very small piece of diabetes management."

Erickson said diabetes education is an ongoing process. The disease is progressive and is different for each person experiencing it, meaning those with diabetes must adjust and change their approach with managing the disease as time goes on, she added.

Education is particularly important, she said, in light of the rise of those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is the much more common form of the disease and is largely preventable through diet and exercise. The bodies of Type 2 diabetics do not use insulin properly, whereas the bodies of those with Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin at all due to the immune system destroying cells in the pancreas. Although there is a hereditary element to the disease for some, the exact cause is not known. Those with Type 1 represent 5 percent of the diabetic population, the American Diabetes Association notes.

According to other statistics compiled by the organization, nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes and another 86 million have prediabetes. Today in the United States, 3,835 people will be diagnosed with diabetes. Also today, 200 Americans will undergo an amputation, 136 will enter end-stage kidney disease treatment and 1,795 will develop severe retinopathy that can lead to vision loss or blindness.

The costs associated with the disease number in the billions. The association reports diabetes and prediabetes costs the U.S. $322 billion a year, and one in every $5 of health care dollars is spent caring for people with diabetes.

Houge hopes the fundraiser, in honor of his son, will increase awareness of the prevalence and prevention efforts among locals and make an impact in the lives of diabetics and their families.

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"It will be interesting, when it's all said and done and things are kind of quieted down, which we'll need a little rest to recover from this, of what we can do next," Houge said. "Whether it's another fundraiser or whatever it may be. It's important to me to see that people are given the help they need to take this disease serious."

He and the CRMC organizers said the outpouring from the community has been overwhelming in the form of monetary and in-kind donations as well as volunteer efforts. The family fun event, for example, required 66 volunteers to pull off and CRMC staff filled those positions immediately, said Peggy Stebbins, marketing and public relations director. Nearly 100 volunteers in total will be part of the event.

"Being part of a small community, people don't realize how fortunate we are to have people around us like that," Houge said. "It's grown to a much bigger and better benefit than I ever dreamt it would be."

Because of Brandon schedule of events

Power Boat Races-Noon to 4 p.m., Serpent Lake

Family fun event-Noon to 3 p.m., Crosby Memorial Park

Silent auction-3-7 p.m., Crosby Bar and Grill

Mega meat raffle-3:30 p.m., Crosby Bar and Grill

Wine and craft beer tasting-4-7 p.m., Crosby Bar and Grill

Heartland BBQ-4 p.m., Crosby Bar and Grill

Street dance, featuring Pandemic-8 p.m.-midnight, Crosby Bar and Grill

Raffle tickets are $10 and are available until the day of the event. They may be purchased at Crosby Bar and Grill, Crosby-Ironton Courier, Cuyuna Lakes Pharmacy, Crosby Fire Department, Culver's in Baxter, Deerwood Bank in Baxter, Dr. Perpich's offices in Ironton and Nisswa, Town Tavern in Ironton, and Unity Bank in Crosby and Brainerd.

The raffle tickets are for a 2016 Arctic Cat 450 ATV from Brothers Motorsports ($6,300 value), Benelli 12-gauge shotgun from JJ's Guns ($1,200 value), a Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge weekend with meals and golf ($1,150 value), $150 cash, and $50 cash.

Visit www.cuyunamed.org/html/wellness/because-of-brandon.html for a full list of silent auction items.

For more information or to volunteer, call Liz Hoffman at 218-546-5465 or Jon Winn at 218-838-2814.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Brandon Houge (left) poses with his sister Sara (center), nephew Mason and sister Ashley. Houge died in December 2015 from complications associated with Type 1 diabetes. A benefit for diabetes education will take place in Houge's memory on July 30 in Crosby. Submitted photo
Brandon Houge (left) poses with his sister Sara (center), nephew Mason and sister Ashley. Houge died in December 2015 from complications associated with Type 1 diabetes. A benefit for diabetes education will take place in Houge's memory on July 30 in Crosby. Submitted photo

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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