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Photo of Casey O'Brien at WineFest No. 25.2


A quarter century ago, friends with vivid imaginations and adventurous hearts banded together to lead us into the uncharted waters of wine dinners and fundraising—all in hopes of supporting pioneering pediatric research.

Yet it’s likely they never could’ve dreamed of the territory we’d traverse nor the amazing destinations we’d reach. All these years later, WineFest – A Toast to Children’s Health has raised more than $21 million to support our physician-scientists, their myriad medical breakthroughs, and world-class pediatric care at M Health Fairview Masonic Children's Hospital.

For more than a century, the University of Minnesota has been setting new standards in children’s health with trailblazing achievements that make a lasting difference for children and families in Minnesota and around the globe. Its most notable accomplishments include:

  • The first pediatric open-heart surgeries using hypothermia and cross-circulation.
  • The first successful pediatric bone marrow transplant from a non-twin donor.
  • The first pediatric kidney biopsy.
  • The first bone marrow transplant to treat a lethal skin disease in children, showing that stem cells contained in bone marrow can repair injured skin tissue.
  • Development of a pioneering technique for transplanting kidneys in infants.
  • Development of the high-frequency chest compression system to treat cystic fibrosis.
  • Development of less invasive approaches to pediatric heart repair, including leading-edge trials of the pediatric Berlin Heart device, which helps keep kids’ hearts strong until they can receive a transplant.

Support lifesaving discoveries for children everywhere


WineFest No. 26 Featured Artist

Each year WineFest features an artist who creates a one-of-a-kind piece reflective of the year's theme. This year's theme is Uncharted and artist is Donte Mearon.

Donte Mearon


WineFest No. 26 artist’s enthusiasm for art bubbles over

It’s a sunny Saturday despite the winter cold and nine-year-old Nolan swooshes down a
Twin Cities tubing hill, cheering as he flies with dad Donte Mearon and mom Nicole

For a long while, this carefree family time was just a dream.

Nearly a decade ago, the Chicago couple had been visiting family in Minneapolis when
Nicole suddenly went into labor at only 23-1/2 weeks gestation. Baby Nolan arrived
weighing 1-1/2 pounds with pulmonary issues and a brain bleed. In critical condition, his
future was tenuous.

Yet Nolan fought for his life, and four months later, he was healthy enough to be
discharged. Meanwhile, Donte and Nicole had been keeping vigil and staying nearby at
the Ronald McDonald House.

Both at the hospital and their temporary home, Donte, an artist and graphic designer,
took notice of the importance artwork played in the lives of patients and their families.
“You don’t want patients to walk into a stark, vanilla box, but a space with attractive
colors,” he says, “where the artwork is selected for the audience, takes their minds off of
why they’re there, and brings up positive emotions.”

Soon Donte and Nicole, a physician’s assistant, landed jobs in the Twin Cities, relocating
here permanently. And they wasted no time in giving back, serving on the board of
Ronald McDonald House, jumping in to help at various health-related organizations like
Love Your Melon, and, in Donte’s case, sharing his art.

So it’s no wonder that he was tapped to create artworks for WineFest No. 26. “I was
ecstatic,” he says about learning the news, noting his years-long WineFest involvement,
even live painting barrels during past Fine Wine Dinners.

Donte’s two untitled WineFest artworks use paint, resin, silver leaf, and even a cork. One
is red wine themed with mostly maroons and purples, while the other’s bubbly prosecco
motif features silver pops, swirls and effervescence — similar to Donte’s own
enthusiasm for art and life.

“I like how the arts cross over,” he says, referring to how often he uses similar materials
whether he’s painting, making jewelry, designing and printing greeting cards and t-shirts,
and more. He likens that approach to cooking. “Recently I made matzo ball soup and
tamales in one weekend — both use the same ingredients but are put together
differently. That’s like art.”

In addition to creating and selling art for his company, Throwing Paint, Donte is involved
in the Downtown Minneapolis Street Art Festival, leads arts efforts for the Armatage
Neighborhood Association, and, recently, his artwork was featured at the Minneapolis
Public Schools Office for Black History Month. He also teaches community education art

“I love making art accessible and available on a bigger scale,” he says. “Giving someone
the confidence, the space and the opportunity. There’s such a need for arts right now.”

For more information, please contact
Brittany Christenson.

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