Bemidji man sets high goal to raise money to fight multiple sclerosis
Randy Triepke has raised more than $71,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society since 2001, and last year his $11,300 in donations was the third highest in the nation.
BEMIDJI, Minn. — He may be No. 3 in the nation, but Randy Triepke is No. 1 when it comes to people who know him.
Triepke has raised more than $71,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society since 2001, and last year his $11,300 in donations was the third highest in the nation among individuals. It’s a feat that makes the 64-year-old Bemidji Marketplace Foods employee proud, and it only fuels his goal of outdoing himself every year.
It all started when Triepke was working at the Pamida department store in Bemidji 22 years ago. The store was taking part in one of the first Walk MS fundraisers and he decided to sign up.
“That first year I raised $110, which now I would be embarrassed about,” Triepke said. “But it was a start. Every year after that except for one I outdid the year before.”
He topped the $1,000 mark in his fifth year.
“I’m not affected by MS at all on either side of the family,” he said, “so people are impressed that I’m so passionate about this. Twenty-three years later I’m anxious to start this year now that I’m registered.”
One person who is sure to support Triepke’s efforts is his buddy Doug Leif, a professor of business administration at Bemidji State University. The two met at a BSU men’s hockey game years ago.
“We were talking to some players as they came out after the game,” Leif recalled. “Randy is a loyal fan of the (BSU) Beavers and the (Bemidji High School) Lumberjacks. He’ll talk your arm and leg off, and he’s always the last person to leave the building after a game.”
They’ve become great friends, and Leif said it’s definitely a two-way relationship.
“I’m very blessed to have him as a friend,” Leif said. “He calls me his best friend, and he appreciates everything I do for him and everybody else does for him. But I don’t think he understands how much we appreciate him as a friend. We’re always helping him, and he’s always thankful, but he helps us a lot just by being who he is. It’s not like he’s getting all the benefit of this relationship.”
Triepke was a high school junior when his family moved from Superior, Wisconsin, to Bemidji in the fall of 1974. His father, Harry, was a district roadmaster for the railroad. His mother, DeElda (Dee) was attendance secretary at BHS and later a paraprofessional at Bemidji Middle School.
After high school, Triepke attended Northwest Technical College for two years.
He worked at Pamida for just shy of 30 years until the store closed in 2012. Later that year he started at Marketplace Foods, where his duties range from stocking shelves and unloading trucks to carryout and anything else he’s asked to do.
“Randy is kind of a fixture of the store,” said Mark Gilmore, assistant store manager. “He brings in excitement. He’s always happy. He’s always willing to help other people. It seems like he knows 80% of the people who walk in the front door. He really, really cares.”
Triepke also cares, deeply, about his Walk MS fundraising efforts. He sends more than 300 handwritten letters to potential donors every year.
“My biggest expense is stamps,” he said. “I don’t subtract any expenses. I also pay for myself to walk.”
Because of the pandemic, the local Walk MS event has not been held since 2019. It has gone virtual and now is called Walk MS Your Way. Triepke still gets his pledges and donations, and he insists on walking on his own. He plans to do so on Saturday, May 6.
“You can still fundraise even if there’s no walk,” he said. “I’m not going to take your money and not walk.”