Bountiful REI's

Turning a negative situation into a beautiful, positive piece of art

By Mattie Hjelseth

Bill Brien ©2018 Bountiful REI's

Cancer is among the leading cause of death worldwide, killing about 9.6 million people in 2018. One of those people who passed away was Geri Rei (Fischer) Brien, a 2011 UND graduate.

Geri was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2014. Her husband, Bill, ’11, said, “she fought until the end.”

After Geri passed away in May 2018, Bill wanted a means to share his wife’s story. So, he started a company called Bountiful REI’s to “help inspire others who are also fighting cancer.”

Bountiful REI’s provides a story of ‘hope through art’, where each piece Bill creates has a story.

“Each piece has a spiritual component as well as a physical component, an emotional side and a mental side,” said Bill.

One piece he created that has those different components is called ‘The Howling’.

“That one has the most meaning to me because Geri was still alive when I made that one. The wolf is howling like ‘what do we do now,’” said Bill.

He said this is when they were at a crossroads wondering what to do next.

“We ended up going to Mayo again and got some not so good news,” said Bill.

Despite the heartache, Bill said Geri always had a smile on her face.

“She was still hopeful and joyful. Still joking and loving life,” said Bill.

Each piece of art Bill creates isn’t just a story that they went through, it’s a piece that Bill said everyone can relate to.

“I know people that buy them are emotionally touched by each piece because they know somebody that has gone through something like we have,” said Bill.

He said everyone knows someone who’s had cancer, and that’s why he makes art--to show people that they “aren’t alone” and his art is a “message of hope.”

He said creating his pieces is “a great way to be able to deal with the pain and loss of losing Geri.”

And selling his art is just a bonus, because he doesn’t keep all his proceeds. He donates some money to the Bismarck Cancer Center to help families who are in need, in honor of Geri and those who’ve lent a helping hand to them.

“For me I find healing in giving back just a little bit. It helps me with my grief and my pain that’s still there,” said Bill. “Just giving back from all that we’ve received is just part of living a good life.”

Since October of 2018, Bill has donated about $3,000 to the Bismarck Cancer Center, which then distributes the money amongst their patients through ‘wrap around services’ like gas cards, therapy sessions and hotels.

“We are touched to have him give back that way. We are thrilled he is able to take his personal experience and turn it around into something positive,” said Sara Kelsch, marketing director for the Bismarck Cancer Center.

She said the Bismarck Cancer Center loves working with Bill and Bountiful REI’s because of the personal connection.

If you’d like to see Bill’s art, you can go to his website at www.bountifulreis.com or check the company out on social media, just search Bountiful REI’s.