Feeding kids, nourishing the soul

Debbie and Ed Witschen, inspired by their late son Dylan, a St. Jude patient, are teaming with other local businesses to provide free lunches for children who otherwise might go hungry because of school closings.

In these unsettling times of the coronavirus, a couple of surprising things have proven blessedly true in the Minneapolis suburb of Ramsey:

A boy who passed away nearly 10 years ago from a brain tumor can still send light out into the world.

And, there’s such a thing as a free lunch.

Debbie and Ed Witschen, inspired by their late son Dylan, a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital patient, are teaming with other local businesses to provide free lunches for children who otherwise might go hungry because of school closings.

Each lunch, available for carryout daily at Debbie and Ed’s Riversbend Bar & Grill, contains a ham or turkey sandwich, chips, fruit — and, because Dylan would have loved it, a cookie.

 “Oh gosh, oh yeah, Dylan influenced our decision to do this, and especially to include a cookie,” Debbie said. “Because he had a dessert tank. That’s what he always said. He would say, ‘My food tank is full, but my dessert tank is not.’ So we wanted to make sure we had food for both tanks!”

That was Dylan — a full-of-life teenager, a football player with a heart as big as his personality. Told he had just months to life, Dylan called a family meeting. He asked his parents and sister Megan to help him start a scholarship fund for area college-bound football players who best embodied such virtues as compassion, giving and determination.

And, he asked them to help St. Jude defeat pediatric cancer. Today, Dylan’s family has one of the nation’s most successful St. Jude Walk/Run teams, with more than $600,000 raised.

Now they’re helping children and families during this unprecedented global challenge, teaming with local businesses Something Sweet by Maddie Lu (which provides the cookies), and All Auto Glass and Arko Companies.

“Just knowing when Dylan was diagnosed with cancer that it could be hardship for us, we have a soft spot for people in need,” Debbie said. “So we always look out for that. This was just a simple way for us to give back.”

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