Podein's charity helping families for 15 years
BYRON — Shjon Podein comes from a big extended family. Monday night at Somerby Golf Club in Byron, that family looked a lot bigger.
Serving as master of ceremonies, auctioneer and standup comedian, Podein, a former NHL player and John Marshall High School graduate, worked the crowd at the 15th annual Team 25 Children’s Foundation Golf Tournament and Party. The event raises money for the A-T Children’s Project, a nonprofit organization that funds research and treatment of ataxia-telangiectasia, a childhood disorder, and a handful of charities across southeastern Minnesota.
"It’s about quality of life, especially at this event," said Podein, referring to the A-T patients and their families. "We want the kids to have their time in the sun. That’s what this event is all about."
Podein’s charity foundation has raised $1.2 million through the years, money that goes to research and helping improve the lives of A-T patients.
Monday’s event included a golf tournament and live and silent auctions.
Kayla Neys, executive director of Team 25 Children’s Foundation, said people come from across the country to attend the event. This year, families came from as far as Montana and Washington, D.C. One item included in the live auction, she said, was a quilt made by one of the mothers of an A-T child. The quilt was made of T-shirts from previous fundraiser weekends. That quilt sold for $1,400 to one member of the generous crowd.
Linda Harvey said Podein is like a member of the family for his dedication to A-T research.
"He’ll call the kids throughout the year to see how they’re doing," said Harvey, of Dubuque, Iowa, whose son, Joel, has A-T. "Last year the kids got $1,000 checks from Shjon."
Joel, 17, said he used some of that money to attend a Wisconsin Badgers football game. "It was their homecoming game," said Joel, a huge Badgers fan. "They blew them out."
Families can spend time during the fundraiser weekends to learn from each other and lean on one another, Linda Harvey said.
"It’s great to get together with other families with A-T kids," she said. "They understand the problems we face."
Providing a place for families to get together and have some fun is as important as raising money, Podein said. Since the recession hit a few years ago, money — especially charitable donations — is a little harder to come by. Because of that, Podein said, he doesn’t set a monetary goal for the event.
"We just raise as much as we can to support these folks," he said. "These families go through more in a day than most of us do all year."