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A public thank you for anonymous gift

Ann, left, and Don Orth pose with a Vikings mascot at one of the annual Tim Orth Foundation fundraiser events. (Submitted photo)

Doctors could offer little hope, but Don and Ann Orth of Olivia were determined. They were going to do all they could to help their son Tim fight his cancer.

Along with traditional treatment, they traveled overseas to pursue alternative therapies not covered by insurance.

Bills mounted, but Don Orth said friend and banker Kent Kircher told him not to worry. Write the check and pay him back later.

With Tim's death on Feb. 14, 1997, the Orth's had the loss of an 18-year-old son to mourn and a bigger bill than they knew how to pay.

With that dilemma at hand, Don Orth said he read about Mark Dayton writing a large check to the DFL party and thought: why not? He wrote Dayton a letter explaining his plight and asked if he might be willing to help.

The reply was what Orth described as a "generous'' check. It came with a note from Dayton explaining that as a parent he understood exactly why the Orths had done all they could.

But Dayton offered the check with one stipulation: He was to remain an anonymous donor.

For more than a decade the Orths and Kircher kept the secret, but that changed a week ago when Mark Dayton came to Master's Café in Olivia as a gubernatorial candidate. Orth asked Dayton's aides if he could speak privately with Dayton to personally thank him for his gift years ago.

They told him it would be fine to bring it up while others were present, and so he did.

Orth said he really just wanted to say thanks, but felt so much better for the opportunity to do so with others present.

Orth said Dayton responded by turning the tables, telling him that the Tim Orth Foundation has given back to others in such a big way and consequently has paid back his gift many times over.

Orth and Dayton will not discuss the size of the check. Orth said that he did not ask for a specific amount from Dayton. Yet the amount that Dayton donated -- when combined with the money his son Tim had raised by lawn mowing and other jobs toward his medical costs -- was exactly what was needed to pay off the bill, according to Orth.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335