Minneapolis City SC hosting ‘Gene Party’ game at Augsburg Friday for Evan Menk, Children's Hospital

Minneapolis City SC is hosting Thunder Bay in a USL League 2 game Friday night at Augsburg University, and it will be anything but your typical soccer match.

You’ll see players wearing shirts that look like denim, and jort-like soccer shorts. It’ll be a "Gene Party" at Edor Nelson Field, an event that will hit close to home for Scott Menk, his family and M Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital.

Menk’s now 5-year-old son Evan was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy just five days after being born in 2019. Doctors said Evan’s life expectancy was likely just two years.

"You go from having this joyous moment of having my second child to I might need to start planning for a funeral and I don’t know how much time you’re going to have with him," Scott Menk said. "To get a call to say that your son’s life expectancy is 2 is something that I hope no parent ever has to deal with."

They immediately started a treatment plan that involved being at the Children’s Hospital multiple times per week. Evan had to have spinal taps, started gene therapy and was given the drug Zolgensma, one of only 11 Minnesotans to get it, in February of 2020. That’s right before clinics closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Evan beat the odds and is now a happy and healthy 5-year-old. He gets annual check-ups to make sure he can run and has muscle function. Scott Menk is a creative director for Twin Cities Orthopedics, which is a sports medicine provider for Minneapolis City SC.

He connected with the team’s co-founder Dan Hoedeman, and started volunteering with the club. They got the idea to have a denim-focused soccer match to highlight Evan’s story, and give back to the Masonic Children’s Hospital. 

"This is what it’s all about. When this started in 2016, we had the idea that this was about building that community of players, fans and owners. Being able to use what we’re doing to give back, it can’t help but touch your heart," Hoedeman said. "If hope is something we can spread, what a great way to spend our time."

It made too much sense for Menk, who basically lived at the hospital across from Edor Nelson Field, home of the Auggies, where Minneapolis City SC plays their home matches. There’s talk Evan might bring the game ball out Friday.

"How amazing is that story from where he was 50 feet away, now he’s able to walk out on his own. We thought he might be wheelchair-bound for a long time or might not even make it. It’s just a full-circle joyous, happy, hope," Menk said.

A pre-party for Friday’s game starts at 5 p.m. with live music, food trucks and a live auction with several items. Anyone going is encouraged to wear denim to show their support. The match starts at 7 p.m., and they’re going for a unique world record at halftime. Fans will be asked to stay in their seats, and Minneapolis City SC players, coaches and staff will take a group selfie with fans. The goal is to set a world record for the largest selfie of people wearing denim, at least 1,200.

"Let’s wear jeans for genes, which we thought was just goofy enough of a twist on something really meaningful," Hoedeman said. "If we get 1,200 people or more we set a new world record in a very niche, but very fun category. If we completely sell out, that should get us at about 1,600. We’d love to just pack the place for gene therapy."

Proceeds from Friday’s event will go to M Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital. You can also donate online.