January 16, 2014 | 11:40 a.m.
By Brandon Rosas ’15
Dawn Bengston raises funds for needy children in Haiti through the Haitian Hustle, an annual 5K run.
For several years, Bethel nursing graduate Dawn Bengston ’99 has been “doing the hustle” for a worthy cause, and her efforts are continuing to reap benefits for needy children in Haiti. In August 2011, she inaugurated the first annual Haitian Hustle in her hometown of Becker, Minn. The 5K “Fun Run for Education” was the product of a 2010 trip to Haiti, when Bengtson’s heart broke for the Haitian people as she witnessed firsthand the devastation of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that had struck the nation just two weeks earlier. Responding to God's call to care for the “least of these,” she collaborated with the nonprofit Jesus in Haiti Ministries to develop the race as a way to raise funds for tuition, school supplies, and school uniforms for young residents of Lighthouse Children’s Home.
Bengtson’s connection with the Lighthouse Children’s Home began on that first trip to Haiti when she stayed at the home of Tom Osbeck, founder of Jesus in Haiti Ministries, who had just taken in six children who had been orphaned by the quake. When Osbeck proposed the idea for a fundraiser, Bengtson dismissed it as out of her range of expertise. “My initial reaction was, ‘You’ve got the wrong girl.’ I am a nurse. I do not do fundraisers or big organizing,” she says. “But God kept bringing it to mind and gave me creativity and enthusiasm for it.” With the help of her husband Hokan Bengtson ’99, and two close friends, the Haitian Hustle became a reality.
Despite Bengtson’s hesitation, the race was an overwhelming success, raising more than $10,000 in its first running in 2011. The Hustle was picked up in 2012 by the city of Austin, Minn., and funds raised from the 2013 races were sufficient to send all residents of Lighthouse Children’s House to school, as well as cover their supplies and uniforms. With Fort Wayne, Ind., and Cincinnati, Ohio, scheduled to join the fun for 2014, Bengtson is humbled by how far God has taken the event—and her. “I felt so inadequate that first year...and still do,” she admits. “But as long as He calls me to do it, I will be obedient…and watch Him work.”