WineFest aids pediatric research

Wine connoisseurs gathered to sample more than 100 wines from vineyards around the world Friday evening to benefit the University’s Department of Pediatrics.
More than 1,000 people attended the fourth annual WineFest, the largest wine festival in the Upper Midwest. The event, hosted by the University Children’s Foundation, was held at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center.
Brenda Wermerskirchen was attending her first WineFest. She said she came to support a “phenomenal” cause and to sample many different wines that cannot be sampled in liquor stores.
Wermerskirchen has volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House on campus, so she said she understands the treatment children receive at the University is very important.
“The (University Children’s Foundation’s) mission is to raise money to support research for the Department of Pediatrics,” said Ann Benrud, the assistant director of the children’s foundation. “The research leads to prevention and treatment of disease.”
WineFest is “critical” for continuing research at the University, Benrud said. University faculty members count on the money raised by the foundation to conduct research on new treatments that many children depend on, she added.
Jacquelyn Huseby was one of many children who benefited from research done by the Department of Pediatrics. Jacquelyn began suffering from atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, a rare disease in which blood does not clot properly, when she was 13 months old.
After receiving plasmapheresis — a procedure in which a patient’s blood is swapped with replacement blood — more than 100 times, Jacquelyn is now a healthy 7-year-old who loves swimming and playing soccer.
Jacquelyn’s mother Jerilyn Huseby praised the foundation and the Department of Pediatrics.
“We are extremely grateful to have the University so close,” Huseby said. “She is our miracle child.”
The department’s research has led to many medical breakthroughs, including the first successful pediatric bone marrow transplant, the first pediatric open-heart surgery and the first cystic fibrosis vest.
Benrud said WineFest, which is the sixth largest festival in the country, raised $275,000 last year, and organizers hoped to better that number this year.
The 1999 University Children’s Foundation Scholar Award winner, Dr. Julia Steinberger, is one of many people who depend on funding from the foundation to conduct research. In WineFest’s event program, Steinberger said pediatrics is a very rewarding field.
“I have the opportunity to improve the lives of people who have so much of their life ahead of them,” Steinberger said.
In conjunction with Friday’s wine tasting, a black-tie dinner and auction was held Saturday evening.
The live and silent auctions offered 10 trips to wine regions around the globe. Also available were an autographed Paul Molitor baseball bat, a chance to be honorary bat-kid at a St. Paul Saints game and many vintage wine bottles and baskets.
The foundation also welcomed Jean-Michel Cazes as the Honorary Winemaster. Cazes, who owns a winery in France called Chateau Lynch-Bages, discussed his winemaking secrets. Lynch-Bages is known for its world-famous red bordeaux.