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Minnesotan To Meet: Fundraiser Blythe Brenden

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Arts, integrative health, education and serving women and children.

Those are all passions of a local woman with a strong legacy!

Blythe Brenden represents the third generation of a family known for giving, and it's her tireless work for the community that makes Brenden this week's Minnesotan to Meet.

WCCO's Jamie Yuccas sat down with her at the U of M Masonic Children's Hospital, where Brenden is the honorary chair of the hospital's WineFest 20, to talk about her fundraising efforts.

From jumping out of airplanes to conducting at the Ordway, Brendan will go to the extreme to raise money for charity.

"I don't know not being involved in the community and what that means, because I watched it with my grandfather, I've watched it with my mother ," Brenden said.

Brendan's grandfather was Ted Mann. As in, the Ted Mann the concert hall at the University of Minnesota is named after.

"I get goosebumps because I kind of feel my grandfather's presence there," Brenden said.

Mann's life always involved the arts.

He first rented, then purchased, the Selby Theatre in St. Paul.

By age 40, he owned 25 theaters in Minnesota, before selling.

"If he shook your hand and made a deal, the deal was done. And when he sold his theater chain, he was offered twice the amount the next day and he said, 'I'm sorry, I made a hand shake deal,'" Brenden said.

His next move was to Los Angeles. He bought the famous Grauman's Chinese Theater and renamed it Mann Theatres.

Brenden spent 15 years in California just to be close to him.

"I consider my grandfather my best friend. A lot of people aren't fortunate enough, I spoke to him almost every day of my life," she said.

She worked at his theaters while in college and learned about Mann's other big passion, giving back.

"My grandfather over two different Thanksgivings required his four grandchildren to volunteer a certain amount of hours before we were event allowed to show up at the Thanksgiving table," she said.

Her mother, Dr. Roberta Mann, was the first woman president of the Minneapolis chapter of The Boys and Girls Club.

Roberta often brought Brenden to appointments with donors.

"She was feisty," Brenden said. "She could get anybody to write her a check, and I used to watch her and I used to watch people say 'And how much do you need Roberta?'"

Roberta also introduced Brenden to the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra and Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

"I think all children should have those experiences," she said.

That's why she is now on the board of the Guthrie Theater and MIA.

Then there's her focus on kids and health with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's hospital, and a passion for integrative medicine with the Bravewell Collaborative and Weizman Institute.

Even when she's not in board meetings, social time means talking to potential donors.

She seems to always be on the clock, with dozens of charities since she moved back from California in 1999.

"I would actually like to create a button that when my heart rate starts increasing the button starts saying, 'No, no, no.' So I don't actually have to say it," she said.

When she does give herself a day off, it's usually spent with her adorable pups, 1-year-old Daisy and new puppy Lulu.

"And I think they've lightened me up a little bit and I'm not so uptight about things," she said.

But if you look closely at the promotional material for the U of M WineFest 20, you'll notice even they get put to work every once in a while.

She is getting better at taking time off.

She loves traveling, Bloody Marys and trying out new restaurants. But just be careful! If you run into her, as you heard, she might hit you up for her charity!

That's true even with this year's WineFest. It's a two day event. But the first night will now include an after-party with karaoke because of Brenden!


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