Money raised to help people through loss of loved ones

by Nathan Warner

Contributing writer

Reclaiming the Crown Room of the Wellstead in Rogers, the second annual “A Night to Remember” Gala rallied supporters to help people struggling with grief.

With more than 100 people attending, the event benefitted the Spark of Life Foundation and the Glen Bye Foundation with two auctions and three raffles bringing in about $11,000 for the work of these two organizations.

Beth Wepplo, who attended Spark of Life retreat last year, to deal with the death of her husband from a rare liver disease, spoke the group.

“I remember mentioning to my family how I would like to go somewhere to be alone, yet not alone,” she recalled, “a safe and secure place that could help me move forward.”

She found the Spark of Life Foundation on the internet and discovered it was coming to Minnesota, and she eagerly signed up.

After arriving at Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd, she was welcomed with a basket of chocolates.  That marked the beginning of the care and thoughtfulness she says she received while attending.

“In the days I spent there, I learned how to deal with my grief,” Wepplo said, “and I shared the love and support of the group I had just met, all of whom have become long-term friends.”

She said although the loss of her husband lives with her every day, she has been given the tools by the Spark of Life Foundation to move forward in her life.

LeAnne Bye, founder of the Glen Bye Foundation, hosted the recent fund-raising event with the help of her niece, Amanda Collins.

Among the items in the auction auction was a painting of Glen Bye by Michael Bellotti

Bellotti paints portraits of deceased loved ones as a personal ministry for the Adam Carter Foundation.

“He normally only paints loved ones who have died of cancer,” Bye said, “but he made an exception for Glen.”

David Mathews, founder of the Spark of Life Foundation with his wife, Debbie, spoke of the lives he’s seen turned around because of their retreats.

“In all our experiences we’ve learned of the incredible courage of grieving people,” he said.  “They are our heroes.”

The Spark of Life Foundation had not been outside of Texas until it was invited north to the Land of 10,000 Lakes by the Glen Bye Foundation in 2012.

Since then, Mathews says they’ve been establishing retreats throughout the country in places like Alaska, Colorado, Tennessee, Virginia, and Connecticut. The invite to Conneticut came after the New Town school shooting.

“Through our work, we’ve learned of the incredible power of affirmation,” he said.  “We’ve seen that when people have hope, things change.”

The next Spark of Life retreat in Minnesota will be held at Cragun’s Resort and Hotel on Gull Lake in Brainerd in March.

To register for the next Spark of Life retreat or learn more about the Spark of Life Foundation, visit their website at www.sparkoflife.org.

To learn more about the Glen Bye Foundation and its work in the greater Zimmerman and Elk River community, visit www.glenbyefoundation.org.

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