Gauerke strives for independence
Fundraiser planned for man with cerebral palsy
By Angie Landsverk
Dennis Gauerke loves music, craft projects, camping and his dog named Sideways.
There are also many more activities he wants to do.
“He has never gone to a Brewers game. He wants to go to one,” said his mother, Ronda Dobberstein.
She also wants to take him to the Milwaukee Zoo and shopping at Fox River Mall.
“We’re limited to where we can go,” Dobberstein said.
Gauerke is 22 years old and has cerebral palsy.
Up until last fall, she was able to lift her 6-foot-2-inch son and get him into her vehicle.
“I can’t do it anymore,” she said.
What Gauerke needs is a van with a wheelchair lift.
An April 30 benefit is raising funds to purchase one for him.
Gauerke currently lives with his mother.
She is in the process of finding an apartment for him in the Waupaca area as he prepares to begin working at Waupaca County Industries.
“We’re trying to find an apartment for him and a roommate as well to help share in the living expenses,” Dobberstein said. “I just want to get the word out, to help make Dennis’ life more independent for him, so he’s not stuck in Waupaca.”
Once Gauerke settles into his own place, Dobberstein will be an empty nester.
“I’ve been a single parent pretty much my whole life with him,” she said.
The thought of her son no longer living with her makes her emotional.
However, Dobberstein now “wants to be a mom instead of the caregiver.”
She wants to make sure Gauerke has his own place to live and transportation, so he does not have to depend on her and is set for the rest of his life.
“This vehicle goes with him wherever he goes,” Dobberstein said.
She, along with Gauerke’s caregivers, would drive it and take him the places he needs to go or wants to see.
The idea to raise funds to buy him a van is the result of an experience with Sue Stelzner, who is one of Gauerke’s caregivers.
“We were watching ‘Dr. Phil,’” Stelzner said.
That particular episode was about how someone started a GoFundMe campaign.
Stelzner and Dobberstein worked to set one up for Gauerke.
Sabina Giambrone noticed it on Stelzner’s Facebook page.
Giambrone contacted her and asked about instead sponsoring a benefit through a Thrivent Action Team.
Stelzner asked Dobberstein, and the planning began.
The benefit will be held from 5-10 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at Waupaca Bowl.
It will include bowling, food, music, a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction.
Those who attend will give a $5 donation at the door.
The cost for bowling (including shoes) will be $5, and a plate of food will also cost $5.
There will be music by “Northern Thunder” and “The Night Crawlers.”
In addition, Gauerke will play some music himself.
Gauerke, who participated in the graduation ceremony with the Class of 2013, aged out of the school district’s Lifelong Independent Vocational Education program last year at the age of 21.
Throughout high school, he participated in band and continues to play with the pep band at football and basketball games, Dobberstein said.
Mark Kryshak teaches instrumental music at Waupaca High School and is bringing drums to the benefit for Gauerke to play.
Stelzner said they hope to raise more than $10,000 at the benefit.
Those unable to attend the benefit but interested in supporting it may mail checks to Sabina Giambrone at P.O. Box 164, Weyauwega, WI 54983. Checks should be payable to Giambrone.
Those who have questions about the benefit may contact Stelzner at 920-407-0647.