One special Grand Forks dad is a real ‘Family Man’After country music singer Craig Campbell wrote the hit song “Family Man,” he learned from the response he got on Facebook and Twitter that there were a lot of other fathers across the country who cared about their families the way he did. On Tuesday, he met one who lives in Grand Forks.
After country music singer Craig Campbell wrote the hit song “Family Man,” he learned from the response he got on Facebook and Twitter that there were a lot of other fathers across the country who cared about their families the way he did.
On Tuesday, he met one who lives in Grand Forks. Campbell, his manager and two band members flew from Nashville to meet Michael Ullrich, winner of Campbell’s “Give a Hand to a Family Man” contest.
Ullrich was chosen from more than 5,000 entries across the United States as the first prize winner of a year’s free rent. On Tuesday, Campbell sat at Ullrich’s kitchen table and wrote him, his wife Lindsey and 19-month-old son Austin a check for $12,360 to pay twelve months’ rent on their three-bed room apartment.
“It’s pretty phenomenal,” Lindsey Ullrich said. “I think Austin really enjoys running around all over,” she said with a smile, as her son ran barefooted circles around the kitchen island of their apartment. Austin is in remission and shows no developmental delays from the cancer or the treatments, she noted.
Campbell told the Ullrichs he wrote Family Man because of some of the challenges he was going through with his own family. Now that he’s had some good fortune, he wants to share it with other fathers and families who have struggled financially.
“You are the ultimate family man,” Campbell told Michael Ullrich as he wrote out the check. “I hope this helps.”
Ullrich’s mother-in-law, Jean Skari, nominated Ullrich for the contest after hearing about it several months ago on a local country music station. She believed Ullrich was the ultimate family man because she had witnessed his loyalty to his family when Austin was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, she said.
Austin was diagnosed with AML in November 2009 when he was six weeks old and he and his family spent the next several months at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn. Michael Ullrich, who had graduated from UND shortly before the diagnosis, gave up his job hunt so he could be with his wife and son.
The Ullrichs also terminated the lease to their apartment shortly after Austin was diagnosed and when he finished treatment in July 2010, they moved in with Michael Ullrich’s parents. As a result of winning the contest, this month the Ullrichs were able to move into their own apartment.
During the next couple of years, Michael Ullrich, who now has a full-time job, hopes to save money so the family can buy a house.
When Ullrich got the call in early May that he had won the contest he could hardly believe it. He hadn’t entered any contest, so at first he thought the call might be a hoax.
Skari said she hadn’t told anyone that she entered the online contest and promptly forgot about it until her daughter called inquiring.
“When I pushed the ‘submit’ button, I went back to work and forgot all about it.” Skari said. Once the caller convinced Michael that he really had won the contest, Lindsey suspected her mother was the one who submitted his name.
“If there’s a country music contest, Mom’s behind it. She wins all of the time,” she said, noting that Skari frequently wins movie and concert tickets.
Part of the winnings from the Give a Hand to a Family Man contest included a mini-concert for the Ullrichs. Campbell and band members Dale Clear, who plays guitar, and Shawn Bailey, who plays fiddle, performed a few songs, including Family Man, for the Ullrichs in their living room.
“Kudos to you all for doing what you had to and getting it done,” Campbell told Michael as he launched into Family Man. “This is what it’s all about.”
Reach Bailey at (701) 787-6753; (800) 477-6572, ext. 753; or send e-mail to email@example.com.