PERSPECTIVES - Woodbury - South Maplewood


Medical bills mount for 14-year-old with VATER association

Drew Macke, a 14-year-old boy from Woodbury, has VATER association, a rare genetic condition that requires frequent surgeries and ongoing treatment. Friends who know Drew describe him as a "remarkable kid" who "never complains" about his health problems. (Submitted photos

The Mackes, from left to right, are Abby, Rich, Luke, Holly and Drew. They have been members of Hope Church of Oakdale for more than 13 years, and the congregation will be hosting a benefit for the Drew Macke Foundation on Saturday, April 5, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Hope Church of Oakdale hosting April 5 benefit
Drew Macke is a remarkable kid.
That's what the people who know him say, and it's not hard to see why.
Drew, a 14 year-old boy from Woodbury, was born with a rare condition called VATER association. VATER association is a "grouping of different anomalies," according to Dr. Mary Wild Crea, a pediatrician from Fairview Clinic in Rosemount. She has been caring for Drew since he was about 3 months old.


A part in that world

Mouri (left) stands beside Caroline Innerbichler (Ariel) and fellow castmember, Mathias Anderson. Chanhassen’s production of “The Little Mermaid” is the first time the show has been performed in the Midwest.

Wes Mouri and Julianne Mundale perform together during a dance number. “The Little Mermaid” features all of the songs from the Disney movie, as well as 10 originals written for the theater adaptation.

Arden Hills resident Wes Mouri graduated from Bethel University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts. “The Little Mermaid” is his third production at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

Wes Mouri (far left) performs as part of “The Little Mermaid” ensemble. In addition to being part of the ensemble, Mouri is an understudy for the evil eel Jetsam.

Some actors just can’t catch a break. They work in theater for years, dealing with rejection and struggling to make their “big break.”
Wes Mouri just can’t catch a break, but not in the same way: he’s worked nearly nonstop since he graduated from college two years ago.


Designer picked for Janie Zahradka memorial playground in North St. Paul

The rendering of part of the unique playground from Play by Design

At the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on Feb. 26, Sarah Zahradka describes the options for an all-ages playground that will be built at Casey Lake Park in North St. Paul as a memorial to her daughter, Janie, who passed away in September at 18 months old. She and her husband, Tony, collected donations for the whimsical play structure.

Tony Zahradka holds his daughter, Janie, on a swing at Casey Lake Park in North St. Paul when she was about 7 months old. She died less than a year later, on Sept. 30. The family is donating money toward toddler-friendly structures at the playground in her memory. (submitted photo)

At 17 months old, Janie Zahradka heads toward the playground at Edgerton Park in Maplewood. (submitted photo)

A whimsical, toddler-friendly playground could be built at Casey Lake Park in North St. Paul this summer.
The Parks and Recreation Commission moved the unique play structure one step closer to construction on Feb. 26 by recommending hiring New York company Play by Design, which put together a colorful “Magical Forest Tot Lot” that organizers say would draw families throughout the region.


Going out together

After two decades of guiding the North High School boys hockey program, head coach Jerry Diebel, center, and assistant coaches Thom O’Neill and John “Andy” Anderson are hanging up their skates. (photos by Linda Baumeister/Review)

Retiring head coach Jerry Diebel, center, is surrounded by the Polars boys hockey team following a practice at Polar Arena in North St. Paul.

Head coach Jerry Diebel, center left, and assistant coach Nate Peasley confer during a North High boys hockey practice.

The lobby of Polar Arena is lined with photos of past North High hockey teams.

Diebel, Anderson and O’Neill hanging up their skates after two decades of coaching North High boys hockey program
When the North High School boys play their final hockey game this season, it will mark the end of 20 years of coaching for three stalwarts.
It will also be the conclusion of what has been a remarkably consistent coaching program established by head coach Jerry Diebel and assistants John “Andy” Anderson and Thom O’Neill.


One year after tragedy, Oakdale Elementary remembers Devin Aryal

Oakdale Elementary School students and staff wore green on Tuesday, Feb. 11, in remembrance of former student Devin Aryal, who died last year. Peter Mau, who was the principal at the time, came back to eat lunch with students that day. (submitted photos)

A box, decorated with some of Devin’s favorite things, was set up in the hallway where students could put pictures, letters, cards or Valentines. The box, brimming with mementos, was then given to Devin’s mother.

Oakdale Elementary staff and teachers, including Principal Tracy Buhl and Devin’s fourth-grade teacher, Melissa Helmick, wore green attire and ribbons to show their support Feb. 11.

Oakdale Elementary School went green on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. But not in an environmental sense --nearly 600 students and staff were literally covered with the verdant shade.
Students, staff, teachers and administrators arrived at school that morning, clad in green as a way to celebrate the life of Devin Aryal, a fourth-grader who died after being killed in a drive-by shooting last year. Green was his favorite color.


Moviehouse keeps $2 films, adds new outreach for church

The plaza’s lobby was repainted, given new walls and ceiling tiles, and a collage featuring stills from a wide swath of famous movies was put up. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Charley Swanson, left, and Mike Dougherty, pose in front of the Plaza Theater, or what used to be called Plaza Maplewood. The two are part of the theater’s new management team, and are employed by Woodland Hills Church. (submitted photo)

Woodland Hill renovated much of the Plaza, including the entrance, and made a new logo. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Employees of the Lift work concessions of the Plaza Theater. The theater is staffed by workers from the Lift through a program designed to give people job training. Many of the Lift’s staff are East Siders. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Volunteers from Woodland Hills Church worked to install new seats at the theater. (submitted photo)

With new ownership and plans for a new digital projector, the Plaza Maplewood is back up and running, under the hands of a church.
Following investment and fundraising from the new management, Woodland Hills Church, the place has new carpet, new walls, new ceiling tiles, new seats, and new staff.
The arcade machines are gone and things look fresh, new, and almost pristine.


Hill-Murray senior has jazz hands

John Blanda is shown at the baby grand piano in Hill-Murray High School’s choir room. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

John Blanda was enthusiastic to practice piano even at the young age of 6. By the age of 7, he had his first paying gig in downtown Minneapolis at Trocadero’s (submitted photo)

John Blanda performed at numerous fundraisers for his elementary and middle school, Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He would play piano for donations to the school. (submitted photo)

John Blanda, in a sense, has the world at his fingertips.
Blanda, a 17-year-old kid from Maplewood, is quiet, laid back and comes off a bit spacey, but still sharp.
And sharp quickly comes to the fore when he sits at the piano.


Her heart’s in the effort

Sara Meslow, who lives with an internal defibrillator, recently received a Bakken Invitation award, which recognizes people living longer due to medical technology who use their “extra time” to give back in extraordinary ways. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Meslow, who started Camp Odayin for kids with heart disease, was recently recognized as one of 10 recipients worldwide of Medtronic’s Bakken award. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)

Sara Meslow and a camper pose for a photo at Camp Odayin (submitted photo)

Not long after a chunk of metal was embedded beneath her skin and wires became a part of her heart, Sara Meslow quit her job.
She found a more pressing mission: starting a camp for kids with heart disease.
Now, about 13 years later, the Lake Elmo resident is among 10 people worldwide who recently received a Bakken Invitation award, along with a $20,000 grant, from Medtronic, which named it for company co-founder Earl Bakken.


Afton Alps celebrates 50 years

Afton Alps co-founder Paul Augustine blows snow from a snow gun on a slope at Afton in the mid-1960s. (submitted photo)

Skiers line up to ride one of Afton Alps’ first chairlifts.

An upslope view of Afton Alps’ main chalet a couple of decades ago. (submitted photo)

Afton Alps has a flashy new Guest Services Facility, which houses a new ski school center, ticketing and pass sales office and customer service center. (submitted photo)

An artist’s rendering of the newly renovated Paul’s Pub on the second floor of the Alps Chalet.

Following a change in ownership and months of renovations and new construction, Afton Alps is inviting the public to check out its improved resort and to celebrate 50 years of skiing.
The ski facility is no longer the rustic, mom-and-pop operation that attracted skiers for decades. The redesigned resort now features high-tech snowmaking machines, a new guest-services building, with a  stainless steel look, and improved terrain park.


A look back at the Dome’s glory days

After a 31-year run, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome awaits demolition to make room for a new facility to house its main tenant: the Minnesota Vikings. (Patrick Larkin/Review)

Bill Lester and Jerry Bell, who both served as executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, reflect on their memories of the Metrodome, operations of which they each ran. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Bill Lester, president of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, was pictured in front of the Dome in 1987. (file photo)

Jerry Bell was named North High School alumnus of the year at the time he was pictured in the Metrodome with the Twins’ logo on the field as a backdrop. (file photo)

Jerry Bell, Bill Lester reflect on the good, the bad & the ugly sides of the stadium

A couple of guys who knew it best