by Dennis Dalman
A memorial fundraiser dubbed Denim to Diamonds will raise money for Terebinth Refuge, an organization that is helping victims of sex trafficking in central Minnesota.
The fundraiser will take place starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 10 at Grands at Mulligans’ event center in Sartell.
The event will include a chicken dinner, a special children’s meal, silent auction and live music by Justin & Jason Ploof of The Throwbacks.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.WWBDinc.org.
This will be the fifth annual memorial fundraiser of an organization named What Would Bri Do? It was named for BriAnna Kruzel, an 18-year-old Sartell woman who died at home of natural causes Sept. 28, 2013. Her parents, Tami and Randy Kruzel, along with family and friends, decided to start an annual fundraiser in BriAnna’s honor because she was an avid volunteer in so many causes, including her favorite – Big Brothers Big Sisters. What Would Bri Do has raised $32,000 for various organizations and individuals in recent years.
This year, the Kruzels decided to raise funds for Terebinth Refuge and the needs for its transitional-living house, which will open April 2 in Waite Park.
“BriAnna had a learning disability,” said her mother, Tami. “I really feel she would have been vulnerable to some kind of a social media pitch to befriend some guy who would do her harm. That’s because BriAnna loved and cared about everybody. And sex traffickers often use social media to trick young girls and women. For those reasons, we decided to do this fundraiser for Terebinth Refuge.”
Kruzel said there are disturbing headlines in local papers frequently about the horrors of sex trafficking. She and other members of What Would Bri Do said they are all determined to help Terebinth Refuge and the abused women it works with.
Kruzel said she feels a sense of optimism that lots can be done to combat sex trafficking and to help its victims. Her optimism derives from all of the people and agencies she’s met who are working so hard to do something about it: law enforcement, education, social services and others who care deeply.
“There are people coming to the Denim to Diamonds fundraiser from the Twin Cities and as far away as Iowa,” she said. “That’s how much people care. We are super-excited about it.”
After her daughter died, collapsing in her bedroom, Tami Kruzel in the throes of her grief, found herself asking all the time, “What would BriAnna do if she were still here?” And the answer Tami “heard” was to do something to help make people’s lives better. And that is why she and others started “What Would Bri Do?”
She calls the group her “floatie,” something that keeps her “afloat” day after day.
“If I didn’t have the WWBD organization, I would just drown,” she said. “It gets me out of bed every morning. Other people grieve the death of a child in their own ways. This is my way of grieving and dealing with the loss of my daughter.”
There are many needs associated with Terebinth Refuge and its new six-bed capacity for victims of sex trafficking. The organization hopes to expand its services and capacity with the help of many other interconnecting agencies, including law enforcement.
The needs include a social enterprise through which the women can work on developing working skills, finding jobs so the women can help support the transitional-housing costs, a child-care class to assist with parenting classes, onsite daycare, cooking classes, physical-care classes, a holistic wellness program, a security system and arts-and-crafts supplies.
Ways to help
People and/or businesses can donate items, such as gift certificates, for the March 10 Denim to Diamonds silent auction.
If a donated item needs to be picked up, send an email to info@WWBDinc.org or call Tami Kruzel at 320-492-4691.
A donation can be mailed to WWBD Inc., 334 Pine Ridge Road, Sartell, Minn. 56377. Write the check to WWBD Inc. Donations are tax-deductible.