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This weekend's 'Minnesota Bound' to feature siblings from Renville

Ron Schara surprised Zach and Ella Gustafson when they stepped into an ice fishing house Jan. 18 on Big Kandiyohi Lake near Lake Lillian. (RAND MIDDLETON | TRIBUNE)

Tune in to this Sunday’s edition of Ron Schara’s “Minnesota Bound’’ on KARE 11 for the chance to see two of this area’s best ice anglers, Zach and Ella Gustafson of Renville.

The program is scheduled to air after the 10 p.m. news.

Zach, 10, and Ella, 8, don’t let their challenges with cystic fibrosis keep them from enjoying ice fishing or other outdoor pursuits. Ron Schara and three National Basketball Association mascots surprised the two young anglers when they stepped into an ice fishing house on Big Kandiyohi Lake on January 18.

Schara visited with the young anglers, as well as their older siblings, Hayley and Ayden, and parents, Jim and Susan.

Ella was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis six days after her birth, thanks to a screening at the hospital. Her parents instantly realized that the respiratory problems that Ella’s older brother had been battling during the first two-and-half years of his life had to be due to the very same disease.

This past summer, a lesion discovered on Zach’s lung during a medical checkup proved to be cancer. It has been removed. He is believed to be the only person with cystic fibrosis to also be diagnosed with lung cancer.

Along with the story of the Gustafson’s family courage in the face of adversity, the “Minnesota Bound’’ episode will highlight the work of the Tim Orth Memorial Foundation. Bill Neubauer, of TOMF, originally hooked Zach and Ella on ice fishing by bringing them out to his ice fishing house on Big Kandiyohi Lake a few years ago.

TOMF raises funds and provides support for families whose children are facing catastrophic medical challenges. The volunteer organization has been helping families in the region in memory of Tim Orth of Olivia ever since his death at age 18 on Valentine’s Day in 1997.

Neubauer had contacted Schara about the idea of surprising Zach and Ella. He knew that “Minnesota Bound’’ is must-see TV for Zach. He watches many of the shows while going through his treatment for cystic fibrosis.

After each show, Zach will often suggest fishing adventures and destinations to his family, his father, Jim, said during the outing on Big Kandiyohi Lake.

The suggestions have not fallen on deaf ears. The family is taking a rare vacation at a northern Minnesota resort when the weather warms based on one of Zach’s suggestions, his father said. Due to all of the medical and financial challenges associated with Zach and Ella’s cystic fibrosis, the Gustafson family has rarely been able to away for any length of time.

Come next winter, Zach and Ella are sure to be able to continue enjoying their ice fishing outings. Jeff Drexler, founder of Ice Castle in Montevideo, also surprised the young anglers on their January outing by showing up with an Ice Castle Fishing house he donated to TOMF.

Tom Cherveny

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

(320) 214-4335