It seems appropriate that fund-raising efforts for former Brainerd defensive coordinator Steve Nunnink will kick off at a Warrior football game.
Nunnink, who suffered a brain aneurysm following the season opener Aug. 29, 2003, is currently receiving care at Bethesda Rehabilitation Hospital in St. Paul.
Numerous surgeries have followed since his aneurysm. Nunnink, also a science teacher, the district's strength coordinator and equipment manager since 1975, has been in and out of intensive care, rehabilitation clinics and hospitals. He has not been home since the aneurysm.
As can be expected when a catastrophic event occurs, medical bills loom. Warriors head football coach Ron Stolski is directing an effort to raise funds for the Nunnink family.
Tickets for an Oct. 30 fund-raiser at the Brainerd Armory will be available at Friday's 7 p.m. football game between the Warriors and Moorhead Spuds. A tailgate party is scheduled before the game at Adamson Field. A reception at the Elks Lodge follows. Fans are encouraged to attend the pregame and postgame festivities.
"I'm calling it the most courageous battle by Steve and his family," Stolski said of Nunnink's ordeal. "As so many of these stories are, of illness and poor circumstance, this has been just heroic in my view, the effort by Steve, his family and to a great extent the medical community.
"Steve is, after numerous setbacks, again showing some progress. His hope, wish and dream, and that of his family's, is to come back home to Brainerd. Hopefully, that will happen one day."
Nunnink's wife, Randi, said Tuesday she initially didn't support the idea of a fund-raiser.
Steve Nunnink benefit
When: 5 to 9:30 p.m., Oct. 30
Where: Brainerd Armory, 1115 Wright St.
Tickets: $15, includes food, opportunity to win prizes
Activities: Silent and live auctions, raffles, program, refreshments
Cash donations: May be sent to the Steve Nunnink Benefit Fund, c/o Bremer Bank, P.O. Box 687, Brainerd
Contact: Ron and Sharron Stolski (829-1698), Mark Embretson (829-6216), Bob Ehrich (829-8852), Brian Skogen (829-3510), Janet and Jeff Horn (828-4148), Jim Hunt (828-1365), Glen Gustafson 829-1194)
"I figured other people needed help more than we did," she said. "Then my sister told me, 'Do you realize that probably a lot of people want to do something for you but they don't know how to help? Swallow your pride and let them do something for you.'
"That's when I told Ron to go ahead because every time I call home, people want to know what they can do."
Randi said Steve has lost about 70 pounds and is down to his college playing weight. She said he is alert and currently unable to speak but can mouth his words. On Tuesday he suffered, for the first time since April, a few seizures.
"Steve's been doing pretty well," Randi said. "We're excited to get him back to Bethesda because we thought rehab is what he needed.
"It's been about five months since we've heard his voice. We're excited we might be able to hear him talk again soon."
Stolski said that on one of his recent visits to see Nunnink a nurse said "what has happened in recent weeks is miraculous."
"But the road ahead is long and bumpy yet," Stolski said.
Randi said she can't tell people in Brainerd how appreciative she has been throughout Steve's ordeal.
"It's been over a year but people are still sending cards," she said. "We are so appreciative of that. If they could continue to pray for Steve, that has made such a huge difference. That's the best thing people can do for him, to pray for him.
"We're so thankful to live in such a wonderful place (like Brainerd.) There are so many wonderful people there. We feel very fortunate.
"We just hope and pray Steve is going to be back to his old self one day, or close to it. He still has his sense humor. We're thankful for that. He's got a smile on his face, a twinkle in his eye. That's good to see too."
Mike Bialka can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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