Category Archives: Philanthropy

Giving on Give to the Max Day

Today, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota is participating in Give to the Max Day – Minnesota’s day of philanthropy. Over the next 24 hours, we hope to raise more than $100,000 for our patients and families.

We’re a national leader in advancing the health of children, innovating and delivering family-centered care of exceptional quality. But we can’t do it without you.

  • During the first half of 2012 alone, there’s been $7.4 million in generosity at work.
  • 100 percent of your donations help kids. Every cent is kid spent.

When you give big today, we hope you don’t forget the little guys. To donate, please visit

Throughout the day starting at 7 a.m., we’ll aim to keep you updated on our fundraising progress. We hope you follow along here. You can also follow us on Twitter or Facebook.



31-day photo challenge: What makes kids and Children’s great?

Editor’s note: We’ll announce the winner of the glow sticks every day of the challenge here on the blog. We’ll also reach out directly to the winner. Thanks for participating! *For those days in which there was no winner, we did not receive entries from new participants.

To view the photos that have been shared on Instagram, click here.

Nobody knows kids better than we do, and nobody treats kids better than we do, either. But we can’t do it without your help. That’s why we’ll participate again in Give to the Max Day on Nov. 15. On this day, thousands of Minnesota nonprofits come together to raise money for their important missions.

Starting on Oct. 15, we want to celebrate what makes Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and kids GREAT in the 31 days leading up to Give to the Max Day. You can help. We challenge you to take a photo a day that captures some of that greatness. It’s really pretty simple.

  1. Follow the word list below in order and snap a picture that matches the theme of the day.
  2. That day, upload the photo into Instagram or share it on Twitter or both. Just make sure you include the hashtag #ChildrensMN and the theme of the day.
  3. We know your pictures will be awesome! Each day, we’ll pick one participant to receive a pack of Children’s glow sticks. Pretty rad, right?
  4. We’ll also highlight some of your snaps every Friday on Facebook during the challenge.

Need inspiration? Then you should meet Alannah. She’s a 7-year-old Children’s patient who was diagnosed in August with Stage IV neuroblastoma. Alannah is sweet, courageous and generous. For so many reasons, we think she’s pretty great!

What do YOU think makes kids great? Show us over the next 31 days!

Photo themes:

Oct. 15 Star

Winner: @jenboss

Oct. 16 Happy

Winner: @ElinMarieH

Oct. 17 Playful

Winner: @1girl2boys

Oct. 18 Excitement

Winner: @puddingpop77

Oct. 19 Determination

Winner: @ashlybacon

Oct. 20 Red wagon

Oct. 21 Wonder

Winner: @jaboss

Oct. 22 Heart

Oct. 23 Fearlessness

Oct. 24 Fighter

Winner: @Jorn_K

Oct. 25 Imagination

Winner: @southsidecreepn

Oct. 26 Energy

Oct. 27 Hope

Oct. 28 Smile

Winner: Jenny Traun-Severson

Oct. 29 Perspective

Oct. 30 Sweet

Oct. 31 Trick

Winner: @steveasp7117

Nov. 1 Soul

Nov. 2 Toys

Winner: Joe Roelofs

Nov. 3 Pet therapy

Winner: @creller19

Nov. 4 Freedom

Winner: @jennifermackey6

Nov. 5 Courage

Winner: @BeckyBoudreau

Nov. 6 Love

Winner: @GinaJay1

Nov. 7 Curiosity

Winner: @ingridarnold

Nov. 8 Humor

Winner: @carsolina99

Nov. 9 Chapstick flavors

Nov. 10 Strong

Nov. 11 Balloon

Winner: Tanya Juarez-Sweeney

Nov. 12 Passion

Nov. 13 Inspiration

Nov. 14 Generosity

Winner: @danjmiller

Family gives back with Bags of Smiles

Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this post, Dr. Rustad’s first name was misstated. It is Dr. Dave Rustad. 

This is a guest post by Aric and Kristen Burma, parents of 2-year-old Zachary Burma, a patient at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Zac Burma shows off his silly bands.

Just before Zac turned 1, he came down with a high fever that we initially thought was teething. But it didn’t go away. His pediatrician ordered an X-ray, which showed a spot on Zac’s lung. Worried he might have pneumonia, his doctor sent us to Children’s.

After taking antibiotics, Zac began feeling better. However, as we celebrated Zac’s first birthday, the spot remained. Zac underwent a CAT scan. Before we even pulled out of the parking lot after the test, we received a call from our pediatrician that we needed to return to Children’s to see an oncologist.

We returned and met Dr. Nancy McAllister, who delivered scary news that our perfect and healthy young son needed surgery to remove a tumor. She assured us that it was completely treatable.

Dr. Dave Rustad performed the surgery and removed the entire mass, which was a Stage I Neuroblastoma. Fortunately, no cancer cells had spread and the tumor was completely removed.

Everyone at Children’s treated us so kindly. Our most memorable experience was when Kelly, a nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), visited Zac when he woke after being sedated so she could see him smile. He had been sedated when she was his nurse. All the doctors, nurses and staff are the most amazing people we have met, and we’re truly thankful!

After our experience, we knew we had to give back. We sold raffle tickets at work to raise money to make “Bags of Smiles” – filled with games, arts and crafts, toys and more for kids who are being treated in the Cancer and Blood Disorders Clinic. Our mission is to provide children battling cancer and other serious illnesses a chance to be a kid and smile.

On Aug. 18, we’ll host our first golf tournament to raise money for Children’s patients and Bags of Smiles. Please visit to learn more.

Remembering Noah: His Story

This is a guest post by Jenna and Scott Rogers, parents of Noah Rogers. Noah died from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) in 2010. To remember Noah and to raise money for SIDS research, Jenna and Scott are hosting the second annual Noah’s Memorial Classic on Monday, July 9. Proceeds from the event will benefit Children’s, the CJ Foundation for SIDS and Faith’s Lodge. To learn more about this event, visit

Editor’s note: This post has been modified from Noah’s Story, which originally appeared at

Noah Rogers

November 4, 2009, was the happiest day of our lives. Our beautiful son and first-born Noah Joseph Rogers was born at 9:39 a.m., weighing in at a healthy 8 pounds, 3 ounces.

He had personality from the start. Once he started smiling at 6 weeks old, he never stopped. He brought so much joy to everyone’s lives. He LOVED people. He was a true gift to his mommy and daddy, family and friends. His laughter was contagious, and he learned great tricks like “SO BIG” that he loved sharing with everyone. He said “da-da” like crazy but wanted no part in saying “ma-ma.” He was learning to walk. He was the absolute light of our lives.

Sadly, we never knew that the greatest love of our life would be taken away from us when he was 11 months old. On October 7, 2010, I was leaving work and on my way to pick up Noah from daycare when I received the call that changed my life forever. It was the police. An officer said Noah had been taken to Maple Grove Hospital and that we needed to get there immediately. While taking a nap at daycare, Noah was found unresponsive. I prayed and prayed the entire drive to the hospital. Please save my perfect boy! He’s only 11 months, and I can’t live without him, so he HAS to be OK.

As soon as I walked through the emergency room doors and saw him, I knew he was gone. There were so many doctors working on him, so many machines, so many tubes. My baby boy was lying lifeless on the table, slightly blue and cold to the touch.

Scott and my family arrived shortly after that. A doctor told us that the medical team had spent an hour trying to revive Noah. My own flesh and blood that I carried for nine months and played with for 11 months was gone. We were in a complete state of shock as we spent the next few hours with Noah. We got to hold him, and the medical staff gave me a lock of his hair and his final footprints.

We later found out from the medical examiner that Noah had no medical problems or injuries of any kind. He didn’t suffocate on his blanket. It wasn’t because of his environment. He just died. The medical examiner determined his respiratory tract shut down immediately with no signs of struggle. He breathed out – and never took another breath. Noah died from SIDS, according to the medical examiner.

As a parent, you do everything in your power to make sure your children are safe. We were the best parents we could be to Noah, and we find comfort in that. We gave him everything we could. We made sure he was safe and happy.

We’ll never have all the answers. But, we live on and dedicate our lives to Noah’s memory. He was the greatest, most amazing little boy in the world. We love him more than we even knew our hearts could love.

We continue to honor Noah’s memory in many ways. The annual golf tournament to raise money for SIDS research is just one of them. If you’d like to support this cause, please click here.

For more information about SIDS, please visit the Minnesota SID Center website.

Owen’s Orange Monkeys to walk for kids’ heart health

Paige and Jason Schram, parents of Owen, will participate in the HeartBeat 5000 on Saturday, June 23. They have named their team “Owen’s Orange Monkeys” after a toy their son received from his grandmother. The toy has distracted Owen and made him happy through some difficult times in his young life!

While pregnant with Owen, Paige Schram was referred to Children’s by Abbott Northwestern Hospital’s perinatal program after an ultrasound at 20 weeks showed Owen had a heart defect. Even before he was born, his parents Paige and Jason knew he had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, or HLHS, an underdeveloped left side of his heart. Knowing that Owen would be born needing heart surgery and would die in a few days without treatment, a stunned Paige and Jason were able to meet Children’s cardiology team and understand the surgery and treatment plan prior to the birth of their son.

Paige had a C-section at Abbott, and Jason accompanied Owen through the tunnel to Children’s. Jason raced back and forth between Abbott, where Paige recovered, and Children’s where Owen was being cared for in the NICU before his open heart surgery on his third day, as his mom was discharged from Abbott.  Owen was at Children’s for 46 days recovering from the surgery and complications before his first visit home.

His second of three necessary surgeries took place when Owen was 5 months old, a bit earlier than expected as his oxygen levels began to drop. His second recovery lasted 56 days. He will need his final surgery when he is 3 years old. Owen’s surgeries are re-routing his circulation to the right side of his heart and need to be spaced out to accommodate his growth and tolerance of the surgeries.

During his first winter, Owen didn’t go to the grocery store with his mom or out to the playground with his dad. He stayed home and has been lucky to stay healthy – free of colds, ear infections and other illnesses. But his parents look forward to when he joins other children who go to school, play groups, and sleep in their beds at home, even though they love Children’s!

Later this month, Paige and Jason will give back to the hospital. After reading about HeartBeat 5000, our annual 5k walk/run benefiting kids’ heart health, on our Facebook page, Jason knew his family needed to create a team for the event. The family is excited to raise awareness and funds for our life-saving cardiology programs.

To support Owen’s Orange Monkeys, click here.



Owen’s Orange Monkeys from Children’s of Minnesota on Vimeo.

Shaving my head for kids with cancer and its teachable moments

This is a guest post by Tanya Juarez-Sweeney, Child and Family Services Project Specialist at Children’s, who, along with her husband and son, shaved her head during the St. Baldrick’s Foundation head-shaving event, hosted at Children’s in Minneapolis, in March.

“Hello, my name is Tanya Juarez-Sweeney, and I’ll be your volunteer tour guide today. When I’m not volunteering at the art museum, I work at Children’s Hospital just a few blocks from here, and that is why I have this awesome new haircut. We had a celebration for some of our cancer patients, and they shaved my hair!”

This has become my standard greeting for the elementary school tours I lead at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts — one of Children’s community art partners. It has been the best part of my post-shave experience, as it offers many teachable moments. Shaving my hair has also been a lot of fun. Usually once a day I look into a mirror and sing “Nothing Compares to You” by Sinead O’Connor. I do it because I can. It’s a benefit of my new hairdo.

Going from having super long hair to being bald gets attention. It gives me the opportunity to brag about our organization and the amazing strength of the hematology oncology kids we serve. These opportunities are everywhere – at restaurants, gas stations, and in my neighborhood. With every encounter, there’s a chance to explain my new hairdo. These sharing moments are contagious and inspiring to those around me. I feel pride in paying it forward.

During the month following the hair-shaving event, I volunteered at my neighborhood elementary school. It was perfect timing. I was able to engage the students in discussions about the many ways we can give back to the community and help others. As part of a class art project, the children made Tzedakah boxes. We discussed how the boxes are used to collect money to give back to those in need, but there are other ways to help others, like shaving your head or raking a lawn. A few weeks later, I received a large envelope full of thank-you notes from the kids that included their ideas for their Tzedakah box money. Many were saving their money for Children’s.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation event on March 29 raised nearly $20,000 for pediatric cancer research and was a celebration of the bravery and courage our patients have. Never have I felt such joy as I did that night. I’m sure I had a permanent smile plastered on my face the entire evening.

After leaving the hospital, I posted the following on Facebook:  “Shaved by 2 patients tonight, and feeling joyful. As I left the hospital a light rain started. What a feeling to feel rain on the top of your head! It was like little tickles or kisses from nature. I can’t help but feel that the honored kids who couldn’t be there tonight were giving me a little present.”

To read Tanya’s first post about why she shaved her head, click here.

Find your pace: Participate in the HeartBeat 5000

Shay, on the right, with her sister Dru

When Shay Dschaak was five days old, she had her first of many surgeries at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

During the first year of her life, she spent several months hospitalized for various heart procedures. Now, the 2-year-old is considered “repaired,” her mom, Sarah Dschaak, said. “It was a crazy start, but she is the most feisty, little red-headed girl. She is so full of life,” she said.

And Sarah is so thankful. That’s why she, her family and friends will travel nearly 12 hours from their North Dakota town to Minneapolis for the HeartBeat 5000 on June 23.

“I decided this is a great thing, and it’s one of the ways I can give back to Children’s after what they did for my family,” Sarah said.

In its tenth year, the HeartBeat 5000, held at Father Hennepin Park in Minneapolis, will bring together patients, families, staff and the community to celebrate the daily miracles at Children’s. Since its development, the event has raised more than $1.4 million for the hospital’s cardiovascular program and Family Needs Fund.

The event has grown considerably during the last few years. In 2010, 47 teams participated and last year, there were 80. So far this year, 99 teams have registered.

Sarah’s team, RedHeaded Hearts, has raised about $7,000 to date. She organized a Cinco de Mayo party, complete with bingo games and a live auction, which generated about $6,000. Her team has also raised money through their website.

“If it wasn’t for Children’s, we wouldn’t have Shay,” Dschaak said. “[Participating in HeartBeat] is the least I can do for what they did for Shay.”


Team Julia’s Beat will make their fifth appearance at the race. The team draws big numbers. In 2010, they topped all teams with about 80 members and last year, they raised the most money — approximately $5,400.

Team captain and proud mom Kelly Olejar hopes for another strong team showing this year.

“Everyone has grown to love it. It doesn’t have to affect them directly,” she said.

Kelly’s oldest daughter, Julia, was born with a heart defect. At seven weeks, she had surgery and ended up spending the entire summer in the hospital due to complications.

Julia, now a healthy 5-year-old and the star on the team, participates in the event. “She calls it the big walk,” Kelly said “She’s kind of getting it that it’s about her.”

Kelly also tries to give back through volunteering at the hospital and helping other families. “We count our blessings,” she said. “I don’t know big people in big places, but I can do something to give back.”

Returning for the second time to the HeartBeat 5000 is Moms on the Run, a running program for women throughout the Twin Cities.

Last year, an estimated 40 people affiliated with Moms on the Run participated in the race. Founder and CEO Karissa Johnson says she expects a bigger turnout this year.

The group participates in one race event every month, Karissa said. The family-friendly environment, central location and beautiful urban setting at the HeartBeat 5000 are among its highlights, she said.

“We’re always looking for an event with a good cause to support,” she said. “I just felt that children’s health was something we could all rally around.”

Want to get involved? Sign up today! Join a team, start your own or run as an individual! For more information, click here.


Star Gala raises over $2M for Children’s

Star Gala performance Caiah's performance of "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera for Children'sThe crowd was brought to tears following a performance by 10-year-old Caiah Rodgers, a Children’s patient and leukemia survivor, singing her rendition of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.”

We held our Star Gala, the 21st Annual Thank God for Kids event, on April 21 to raise money to benefit the support, care, and comfort to children and families at Children’s. This year’s Star Gala had a fantastic turnout, drawing more than 940 guests to the Historic Milwaukee Road Depot to show their support.

Through silent and live auctions, sponsorships, and donations, Children’s Star Gala raised $2.1 million for the cancer and blood disorders program and the new Neuroscience Center!

The cancer and blood disorders program supports new research and provides services to treat more than 70 percent of the children with cancer in the Twin Cities, while our new Neuroscience Center will combine all brain and spine specialties in one location to improve care coordination and outcomes for kids battling head and spine injuries.

“Children’s relies heavily on community support to provide the kind of world-class care families have come to expect from us. The generosity of those who attend our gala never ceases to both amaze and humble me,” said Theresa Pesch, executive director of the Foundation of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

While the food, dancing, and auctions were a large part of the festivities, the focus of the Star Gala was on the kids that are impacted by our care. Parents Emily and Masud Mamun shared the story of their 3-year-old daughter Lyla, a brain tumor survivor, who endured multiple brain, spine and other surgeries that rendered her temporarily quadriplegic. Through the care she received at Children’s, Lyla is now walking, and thriving.

We couldn’t have pulled this event off without the help of our wonderful sponsors. Major sponsors of the 2012 Children’s Star Gala included Knutson Construction Company, UnitedHealth Group, Great Clips, Ryan Companies U.S., Inc., Whitebox Advisors, RJF Agencies, Dedicated Logistics, Best Buy and API Group, Inc.

Thank you to everyone who attended the 2012 Children’s Star Gala and donated your time and money to support Children’s!