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'Outpouring of support': Brysky benefit draws over 1,000 in Cottage Grove

Getting his fair share of hugs Saturday, former Cottage Grove police Sgt. Greg Brysky embraces his cousin Wanda Thompson. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)1 / 8
Dozens of silent auction items lined the dining hall of the VFW Red Barn in Cottage Grove Saturday for a benefit in support of Cottage Grove police Sergeant Greg Brysky. Items included signed Minnesota Wild memorabilia, sports tickets and beer packages. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)2 / 8
Dozens of silent auction items lined the dining hall of the VFW Red Barn in Cottage Grove Saturday for a benefit in support of former Cottage Grove police Sgt. Greg Brysky. Items included signed Minnesota Wild memorabilia, sports tickets and beer packages. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)3 / 8
Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey and City Council member Justin Olsen proclaimed Jan. 25 as Sergeant Greg Brysky Day. Brysky, a 25-year police veteran, said he was humbled by the honor. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)4 / 8
Among special guests invited to the Greg Brysky benefit was longtime Minnesota Twins beer man, Wally McNeil. Two Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders also attended the event. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)5 / 8
Camouflage can coolies, T-shirts and sweatshirts with the words “No One Fights Alone” were sold by the hundreds to event-goers Saturday. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)6 / 8
Country music band Rural Route 5, of New Richmond, Wis., took the stage Saturday at the Greg Brysky Benefit at the VFW Red Barn in Cottage Grove. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)7 / 8
Event-goers were entertained Saturday by New Richmond-based country band Rural Route 5, who opened up the evening for Lost Highway. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)8 / 8

Greg Brysky woke up seven months ago and had trouble walking on his right leg.

He went to the doctor that day and soon received a startling diagnosis.

“They were thinking maybe a stroke or something – which would have been nice,” Brysky said wryly. “They came back and said you’ve got a couple of (brain) tumors.”

Since the glioblastoma diagnosis, Brysky, a now-retired Cottage Grove police officer, has leaned on his faith and the support of family, friends and coworkers as he navigates medical treatment and life with inoperable, incurable brain cancer.

On Saturday, the support from others came in a big way: Well over 1,000 people packed the Cottage Grove VFW Red Barn for a fundraiser benefitting Brysky and his family.

The benefit was organized by fellow Cottage Grove police officers.

“I’m very grateful that I have such friends and relatives and family that have stepped up to the plate like this,” Brysky said.

Alluding to the reason a benefit was held in his honor, Brysky continued: “I don’t know anybody that would look forward to that. It isn’t a great thing, but I’m so humbled by the outpouring of support that I don’t know what to say.”

The benefit included a concert by Rural Route 5, of New Richmond, Wis., and well-known Minnesota country rockers Lost Highway, catered food, a large silent auction and other entertainment.

Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey also extended a proclamation that named Jan. 25 as Sergeant Greg Brysky Day, an honor Brysky humbly accepted.

“I’m set aside by the amount of people that came out tonight to show their support,” he said to a crowd of people donning benefit T-shirts. “The outpouring of support through meals and kind words has been amazing.”

Event organizer and Cottage Grove police officer Shawn Ebeling said more than 950 tickets were pre-sold with another several hundred purchasing tickets at the door.

“We were hoping this event would bring in about 800 but it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw more like 1,300,” Ebeling said. “Once we put this on social media it just exploded. We never thought it would catch this much attention. But we live in an astonishingly supportive community.”

While figures weren’t available yet, Ebeling estimated the benefit could rake in more than $50,000.

Sharing the sentiment was Stillwater couple Kevin and Melissa Mueller, who both volunteered at a merchandise table. Kevin works with Brysky’s wife, Lisa, at the Washington County courthouse.

“I mean, how could you not want to help out,” Kevin said.

Between the myriad of hugs and handshakes, funny stories and kind words, Brysky’s family said the community of Cottage Grove has provided an unmatched amount of support during a time of uncertainty.

“We are just so proud of (Greg),” Brysky’s cousin Wanda Thompson said. “Despite the diagnosis, he doesn’t let it get to him. He really has an unlimited lifetime.”

'Card that I’ve been dealt'

After the tumor diagnosis last summer, Brysky went through six grueling weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Doctors told him his age – 52 – and good health could help him live longer than the average 13 months people have after a glioblastoma diagnosis.

Brysky said he has accepted his situation.

“That’s kind of the card that I’ve been dealt,” he said, later adding: “I’m totally at peace with the whole thing. It’s going to be a lot tougher on my family.”

Brysky and his wife, Lisa, have a 21-year-old daughter, Jessica, and a 19-year-old son, Joe. Their son is studying law enforcement at Inver Hills Community College and is a community service officer with the city of Woodbury.

Brysky retired late last year after 25 years with the Cottage Grove Police Department. He started as a patrol officer, then became an investigator focusing on sexual assault crimes, an investigative sergeant and finally a patrol sergeant.

While a patrol officer he took an interest in developing police-citizen relationships with lower-income residents in apartment complexes near Hinton and Hearthside avenues. He hoped that could help reduce crime in that area of Cottage Grove.

He returned to patrolling five years ago, this time as a sergeant.

“I really enjoyed being back on the street,” he said. “That was rejuvenating for me.”

After a long career and the cancer diagnosis, retirement was not a difficult decision.

“You get emotionally, physically worn; it’s a tough job,” he said of law enforcement. “It’s a young man’s job, it really is. And I know was at that point that I need to move on.”

Since leaving the department, Brysky has found ways to spend his time. He’s been ice-fishing, visiting friends and working part-time at Cranky Ape, an online auction company founded by two of his friends.

The cancer treatments have changed. After the initial chemotherapy and radiation, he began a regimen of five days of chemotherapy and then 20 days off.

“I still don’t like putting all that crap in my body, but what are you going to do,” he said.

The initial, intense treatment was “ungodly difficult,” Brysky said, but he feels much better now.

Faith has been critical during this time, he said. The Brysky family belongs to Crossroads Church, and he said he also has ties with St. Rita’s Catholic Church.

“You have to either have faith or you don’t,” he said. “If you do, you can tolerate more and work through them easier.”

Brysky was scheduled for more MRI tests late this month. Doctors will review the results with him in early February.

“We continue to pray and hope for the best,” he said.