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Welcome man aims to brighten kids’ days

Mike Kuhlers, second from left, and Brandon Hollingsworth, second from right, of Comics4Children stand with hospital staff at St. Marys in Rochester as they recently donated many toys for sick children.

The desire to help others can be a strong one, but knowing where to start can get complicated quickly. Sometimes we just need to take the risk and try.

Enter Mike Kuhlers of Welcome who in 2015 founded Comics4Children, a charity for sick and ailing children.

“I’ve always wanted to do something like this, but time and money were always a factor,” Kuhlers said. “I always listen to Kevin Smith’s podcast and he would talk about his charity, The Wayne Foundation, and I wondered ‘Why can’t a normal person do that, why does it have to be a celebrity?'”

From there, Kuhlers decided to take action, learning about his own limitations along the way.

“So I just decided to do it,” he said. “I mailed a bunch of packages over the first two years out of my own pocket, but I burnt myself out pretty bad because I was doing it by myself, so I had to take about a year off.

“Then a buddy of mine, Brandon Hollingsworth, said he would help me get it started back up again. He has a master’s [degree] in marketing and he’s been a huge help with staying focused and having support. So now we’ve got the ball rolling again, and hopefully next year we’re going to try to raise money for the 501c so I can start being a legit charity.”

Recently, Kuhlers and Hollingsworth visited St. Marys Hospital in Rochester after having raised about $450 to gather as many toys as possible for sick children.

“I was blown away with how people were donating,” Kuhlers said. “I didn’t think I was going to raise $100, so I was awestruck on the support I got.

“So Brandon and I went to Walmart on Nov. 16, and bought two cart loads of toys. Then on the next day, we went up to Rochester and we were able to drop off the donations at the children’s wing. Unfortunately, we couldn’t pass out the toys this time, but I had been there once before.

“At that time, I passed out a bunch of comics to the kids and we were actually able to visit them. That was amazing, but heartbreaking at the same time. When I left, I broke down in my vehicle, there was just so much emotion because these kids are so much stronger than many adults will ever be.

“I never saw one kid cry or frown, they were all smiles. There was one little girl who was unfortunately spending her birthday in the hospital because she had leukemia. Not once did she complain or mention the words “hospital” or “test” or anything like that.

“She made fun of my head because I’m bald, and I was able to joke with her that she was too. So we kind of went back and forth and that was pretty cool. That’s someone that I’ll never forget.”

Kuhlers and Hollingsworth also met two boys from Blue Earth who were celebrating their 10-year anniversary of successful treatments for genetic ataxia and compromised immune systems.

“Those two kids are rock stars,” Kuhlers said. “The radio station here in town donated passes to the Sea Life Aquarium, the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park and the Crayola Experience in the Mall of America. Then we also gave the family a $75 gas card so they don’t have to worry about gas to get up there and back.”

As for the future, Kuhlers says he has long-term goals in mind for the charity.

“The biggest dream I have is to actually open up a building where we can have kids come by to play games, read books and read comics. That’s a long way off yet.

“We’re going to start focusing more on Martin County for the time being, unless we get invited elsewhere, of course. But we want to make sure that Martin County, and especially Fairmont, knows that we’re here and we’re here to help.”

Kuhlers can be contacted by phone at (507) 848-5588 or by email at: comics4children@hotmail.com

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