Monthly Archives: May 2012

Theresa Pesch recognized as a Women in Business honoree

We are thrilled to announce the recognition of Theresa Pesch, RN, Children’s vice president of development and executive director of the Foundation, as a Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal Women in Business honoree. The annual program honors the region’s top female executives for their contributions to their organizations, industries and community.

Since joining Children’s five years ago, Theresa has built an accomplished development team at Children’s who, in turn, have truly captured the passion of what the organization stands for. In fact, in just a few short years, Theresa and her team have helped elevate our fundraising efforts from $4-5 million a year to more than $25 million a year.

Grounded in an ongoing commitment to help Children’s provide innovative programs and world class pediatric health care, Theresa has also spearheaded many of the largest philanthropic sponsorships, community partnerships and fundraising efforts in Children’s 80-plus year history. Her outstanding record of success is very worthy of accolades and recognition.

Congratulations to Theresa! We are so proud to have you as part of the Children’s family. Thank you for your passion, leadership and dedication to helping ensure we can continue to deliver the high-quality care that the families and kids in our community depend on.

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.


Volunteer Ray Barton Wins Trustee of the Year Award for Commitment to Children’s

We know it takes the extraordinary contributions of so many people, day in and day out, to treat a sick or injured child at Children’s. We strive to deliver the highest quality of care that families can depend upon for their kids. It takes leadership and commitment, from the operating room to the board room, to make this happen.

Naturally, we have genuine pride when the industry stops and takes note of the many standout leaders inside Children’s. Our own Patsy Stinchfield recently received the pediatric nurse practitioner of the year award from the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and now Ray Barton, previous chairman of Children’s board of directors and current chairman of Great Clips, Inc., has been recognized by the Minnesota Hospital Association as Trustee of the Year. The award honors a board member of a hospital or health system who has contributed significantly to the health of the community by providing leadership and guidance to the hospital and board.

However, Ray’s experience with Children’s runs far deeper than a board position. It’s personal. He first came through our doors as a parent when his daughter was treated here several years ago. Along with his wife, Mary Lou, he’s been on a mission ever since to support other families whose children are dealing with a serious illness. Ray is incredibly committed to helping families stay together during times of crisis and ensure that pediatric patients and their families are provided services when they need them most.

For Ray, what started as a concerned father caring for his daughter has grown into a resolve to support Children’s through key programs and services. He started the Great Clips Charity Golf Classic in 1997. It helps fund, among other things, hotel stays for families with sick children so they can spend more time participating in their child’s treatment and less time traveling between home and hospital. There’s the annual Great Clips Cut-A-Thon where proceeds help kids with cancer and other serious illnesses make the transition back to school – a process not covered by insurance. And recently, Ray and Mary Lou supported the creation of the Family Resource Center which provides information and a play area for siblings.

The list goes on.

Ray has been a member of Children’s board of directors for seven years, and has been an extraordinarily generous benefactor. But his contributions go well beyond personal donations of time and money – he is also a great ambassador for Children’s. Ray has rallied Great Clips staff and franchise owners to support the hospital, and has helped Children’s recruit new advocates.

Congratulations on the award, Ray, and thank you for turning your family’s experience into a mission to help other families care for their kids at Children’s.

Immunizations: Taxis, Times Square and Talking Vaccines

This is a guest post by Justin Theodotou, public relations coordinator at Children’s. He accompanied Patsy Stinchfield, Children’s director of infectious disease, on a trip to New York City to speak with national media outlets about the importance of childhood vaccines.

My first trip to New York City was a short one, with little time to “see the sights.” I was there for another reason: to accompany one of Children’s most passionate providers on her quest to make kids healthier.

My travel partner for 24 hours was Patsy Stinchfield, Children’s director of infectious disease. If you’ve ever met Patsy, you feel her passion for children’s health immediately. She’s bursting at the seams with it. One area for which she carries a healthy amount of zeal is the importance of childhood vaccinations, and the purpose of our trip was to promote that very subject, and bring national attention to the work being done at Children’s.

On our agenda was back-to-back-to-back meetings with a “who’s who” list of national media outlets (The New York Times, CBS Evening News, Real Simple, etc.), booked by Children’s public relations partner, Weber Shandwick. These meetings served as an entre for Patsy as a trusted thought leader and resource on childhood vaccinations.

After arriving late on a Tuesday night, it was a taxi ride to our hotel, followed by a short walk to Rockefeller Center to snap a few photos and meet up with Patsy’s sister. We needed to be up and at ‘em early. We had a full day planned.

Our meetings on Wednesday were all different in flavor, but tended to follow two basic routes when discussing the importance of vaccinations. Sometimes, it was the basics: vaccines are safe, effective and they work. Save for clean water, vaccines have saved more lives on this planet than any other man-made creation.

Sometimes, our conversations took a philosophical turn: should today’s parents be left to sift through the information (much of it false, if you get it from the wrong places) about vaccines and whether or not to fully immunize their children? Or, should we as health care providers do a better job of listening when parents have concerns about vaccines, playing the role of trusted counselor rather than lecturer?

Patsy, ever the great storyteller, also drove home her point with anecdotal evidence. She told the story of a mother who brought her four kids to a travel clinic for vaccinations before a trip to Kenya to visit relatives. Three of the four children received the shots they needed, but when it came time for the youngest, nine-month-old Mahi, to receive his, he’d fallen asleep, and his mother didn’t want to wake him. Later, this mother would refer to this moment as her “fateful decision.” The family traveled to Kenya – an area of the world where measles is rampant – with Mahi unvaccinated.

Unfortunately, Mahi contracted the disease, which subsequently attacked his respiratory system, and spent 25 days in Children’s PICU, hooked up to a ventilator. His mom, who earlier didn’t want to wake him in the travel clinic, prayed fervently that he would wake up and that she would once again be able to hold her baby.

Thankfully, Mahi survived his fight against this often deadly vaccine-preventable disease.

I’d heard Patsy tell this story before, but when she told it during one of our meetings, it nearly brought me to tears.

After a whirlwind day zipping across Manhattan — twice inching our way through Times Square in our car — all we had time for was a quick bite to eat before hailing a taxi back to the airport.

But, this trip got me thinking. Vaccines do the job none of us can do on our own. They work to protect us from germs that are indiscriminant infectors, not caring who you are, where you live or what you had for breakfast. All these germs need is a host, and, like it or not, the human body is a darn near perfect one.

It was during this trip that I realized how thankful I am to be fully vaccinated. My parents made the choice I couldn’t as an infant. They chose to protect my sister and me, the two things most near and dear to their hearts, dispelling the worry and the “what if” had we not been vaccinated. But, they were well-informed (my mother’s a nurse), had access to a pediatrician they knew and trusted, and had health insurance, which paid for those vaccines.

Sadly, not all families are as fortunate, but, there are resources available to help them. Agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics provide reliable vaccine information and schedules for parents and providers to follow. Finding a “medical home” is important so the same group of providers is seeing your kids regularly. The Minnesota Vaccines for Children program provides free vaccines for families who don’t have insurance to cover them.

To me, the choice to vaccinate your children is like the choice to buckle them in their car seat. Chances are you won’t get in a car accident, but is the risk really worth it?

For more information and for a list of reliable vaccine resources, visit the Immunizations page on Children’s web site here.

Parents can also download a fact sheet about vaccines here.


Celebrating Our Nurses

This is a guest post by Roxanne Fernandes, Children’s Chief Nursing Officer.

Since coming to Children’s nearly a year ago, I have experienced firsthand the care that Children’s nurses deliver at the bedside, and I can say with confidence that the care is exceptional. What a truly talented and passionate group I’ve come to know and appreciate.

The nursing staff is the single largest part of most healthcare organizations, and the same is true here at Children’s. They are the humble and unsung heroes for patient families every day, and the go-to leaders of our care teams. We would be remiss if we didn’t honor them. That’s why, this week, Children’s is celebrating National Nurses Week, a country-wide celebration of the nursing profession. Children’s will be recognizing the nursing staff here on a job well done and offering a whole-hearted ‘Thank You.”

As part of the celebration, look for Children’s “Nurses, Once in a lifetime” TV ad that will run during shows such as “Modern Family,” “CBS This Morning,” “Ellen,” “The Today Show” and “American Idol.” You can also view the commercial below.

Here’s to our nurses!

Has a nurse had an impact on your life? Please share in the comments section below.

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!