IMG_1786-2 Sydney Dorion, the 11 year old daughter of Pam and Cam Dorion of Nisswa, MN attended Kick’n Up Kountry through the “Hopes, Dreams, & Smiles” program in 2012 due to her being diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, which is a rare, cancerous tumor of a part of the eye called the retina. Sydney lost her eye to this dreaded disease when she was just 4 years old. She was so impressed with the “Hopes, Dreams, & Smiles” program and met so many other children and their families that she told her mother that she wanted to help make it possible for other children with a life threatening illness to attend Kick’n Up Kountry through the program. read more…



How it all began: In 2004, the first year of the Kick’n Up Kountry music festival in Hallock, Minnesota, a gentleman by the name of David Wells called about tickets for the show. He asked what entertainers were coming and I read off the list of artists and when I got to the name of Neal McCoy, he said “You have got to be kidding!!! That is my daughters favorite artist ! She is 14 years old and has leukemia.” If I buy tickets do you think you could make it possible for her to meet him? I told him to have her write a letter to Neal McCoy, and send along some pictures, which she did and I contacted Neal McCoy’s road manager and he said “Of course he’ll see her!”

When it came time to meet him, I walked beside her in the line and when I seen the joy, smiles, and excitement I just brought to that girl for even one day or one weekend I became determined to make this happen for more children with a life threatening illness.

I have continued to work toward finding a non-profit organization that would help to raise funds for this part of the festival and help me put smiles on more children’s faces. Just this year I have now accomplished that task . The Northwest Minnesota Foundation headquartered in Bemidji, MN. has agreed to oversee and manage this fund.

David , Diane, and Brittany Wells have now volunteered to be the host family for this part of the festival since it meant so much to Brittany that first year. They now meet with the hospitals, and the families that will be coming each year and take care of them at the festival.

The first meeting of the advisory board was held at the Best Western in Thief River Falls on Oct .17, 2007. At that meeting it was decided to allow the child with the life threatening illness, the parents, and one sibling to attend the festival through the Hopes, Dream, and Smiles fund. The child receives a gift bag with lots of fun things to remember the weekend by, and the whole family receives VIP tickets, an overnight stay at a motel, special seating at the festival, an autograph and picture taking session with the artists and a Limo ride to and from the festival. The cost of this was determined by the advisory committee to be $2000 per family.

We work with area hospitals to select children that will enjoy this weekend. They have to be a country music fan and have a life threatening illness. We have been working with Meritcare Hospital in Fargo, and Altru Hospital in Grand Forks. The committee decided to include Gillette’s Children’s Hospital and the Mayo Clinic..

This year 12 children were chosen to attend the festival with their families, but due to being ill from their Chemo treatments, only 5 were actually able to attend.

I received the sad news recently that Brandon Lunski had passed away. Just 19 years old I am so honored and pleased that I got to put a smile on his face and give him an enjoyable weekend while he was here. This makes me even more determined to make it possible for even more children with a life threatening illness to spend an enjoyable weekend at Kick’n Up Kountry next year.

I am asking area people and organizations to help me make this happen and if you choose to help I am thanking you in advance.

Will you help? If so you may send a check directly to:

Attn: Caryl Turnow
Northwest Minnesota Foundation
201 3rd St. NW
Bemidji, MN 56601

Checks are tax deductible to the extent allowed by the law and should be made out as follows: NMF/ Hopes, Dreams, & Smiles Fund.
You will be recognized on our website  and on the Northwest Minnesota Foundation website: and in the Kick’n Up Kountry Festival Program.


Ardell Larson, President
Kick’n Up Kountry, Inc.

Click Here to go to the NWMN foundation’s site: