Category Archives: Philanthropy

A green thumb with a healing touch

Leonard Gloeb, master gardener, has been providing horticulture therapy at Children's - St. Paul for 27 years.

After a bad experience with tonsillectomy as a child, Leonard Gloeb had an aversion to hospitals. Lucky for him – and lucky for Children’s – Leonard got over his fear. For the past 27 years, Leonard has been volunteering his time and talents as a master gardener to provide horticulture therapy to our patients and their families in St. Paul.

Horticulture therapy is the purposeful use of plants and plant-related acts to promote health and wellness for all people. Its use dates back to ancient times, and today, it is widely accepted as a beneficial and effective therapy to help build and improve cognitive, physical, psychological and social skills.

Leonard visits Children’s  twice a week to perform a variety of plant-related therapy activities with patients. The program he has helped develop, called “My Little Green Friends,” consists of 35 different activities, including planting, seed art and aromatherapy, to engage patients in the healing benefits of working with and/or enjoying plants. In the past, Leonard maintained the Children’s greenhouse and now donates plants he grows in his personal greenhouse for his activities with patients.

“The project started as a way for me to get in my volunteer hours required for the master gardener program,” says Leonard. “But it has turned into a real passion and a commitment to the children.”

With more than 15,135 volunteer hours now under his belt, Leonard is a familiar face at the St. Paul campus. He works closely with the Child Life team to schedule his visits in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and surgery playrooms, third and fourth floor inpatient units, the short stay unit and the epilepsy unit.

“Leonard brings a lot of smiles to the kids he visits,” says Tom Marsolais, child life associate. “He’s a kind and gentle man, and the kids pick up on his calming influence. The horticulture therapy he does with them is a good distraction during their time at the hospital and provides a learning experience for them to discover more about plants and nature.”

Leonard has seen his work come full circle, with some former patients now returning as parents who still have the plants he gave to them years ago. Those, and some of the stories that stand out the most, are Leonard’s “little miracles” – the examples of how horticulture therapy has improved the care or life of a child.

“One of my favorite success stories came after a planting activity with a group of children in a playroom,” Leonard recalls. “A little boy picked up his potted plant, turned to his mother and said ‘Look mom, my plant.’ It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but I found out later that those were the first words he had spoken since coming to the hospital five days before. It was a tremendous impact with little effort on my part. One time, a doctor told me that the work I was doing was more important than his,” he continues. “I thought he was crazy at the time, but after seeing events like that one, I realized that what I was doing really does make a difference.”

Throughout the years, patient families have asked Leonard if he gets paid for the work he does. “I tell them ‘I get paid more than any CEO.’ Even if I wasn’t a master gardener, I’d still be here. It’s one of the most rewarding projects there is.”



Five Question Friday: Margie Nelson

You’re an annual giving officer at Children’s. What does that job involve? My title is annual giving officer, a position on the annual fund raising team working with donors who give gifts to the hospital for the first time or every year, usually in the $1-$1,000 range. Specifically, my job is to work as a patient family representative from the Foundation. Eighty percent of gifts to hospitals come from families who have had a patient experience. I visit families while they are at Children’s and thank them for their past support, report their stories for our giving blog and stewardship reports and connect families to events and hospital programs of interest. I am helping to build a culture of generosity throughout the hospital by assisting physicians and nurses when they encounter the families who want to give back to Children’s after a powerful experience.

Margie puts a tattoo on a child at the HeartBeat 5000.

Your position allows you to develop unique relationships with families. What do you love most about getting to work with families every day? My children don’t live at home anymore, so I love the opportunity to visit with children and families of all ages and learn about their lives, their schools, how they are feeling and what they love to do when they are not at Children’s. Parents who I see in and around the hospital are genuinely surprised to be thanked in person for past donations and support to Children’s. I think they feel a powerful relationship to the hospital when they are recognized, and it feels great to be the person bringing this to them at a time of great worry and stress.

What drew you to nonprofit work and, specifically, Children’s? I have volunteered at nonprofits since college, when I was an EMT for my home town fire department. Giving back to communities and causes is a family value shared and enjoyed among generations in my family. I feel privileged to be able to build a career in a non-profit or service organization like Children’s as it is easy to put your heart and soul into the mission and work. While working in an underserved children’s non-profit educational organization, I started as a volunteer on an Integrative Medicine Task Force at Children’s and was recommended for the Foundation job a few years later. It is a perfect fit!

What do you think makes Children’s, Children’s? The big things like the people (outstanding doctors and nurses) and the beautiful buildings and then the little things like the kids and the extras; music and pet therapy, hugs, art, games, understanding (child and family services.)

What has been your favorite memory to date working here? The families who have lost children often come back to give gifts so that other families have an easier time. I have learned from them and grown into a better person in the light of their healing generosity.


Former Children’s patient lands dream job, gives back

By Andrew McIlree

Christina Ledin is more than a talented young professional establishing her career. The 26- year-old woman has already discovered her capacity to live with purpose and to help others through one of her earliest childhood experiences – as a cancer survivor at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Ledin recalls getting repeatedly sick to her stomach just before her second birthday. Her skin turned yellow, and she wouldn’t eat. Her pediatrician sent her to Children’s, where doctors discovered a Wilms’ tumor, the size of a grapefruit, on her left kidney. Treatment began immediately.

In her memory, the healing journey at Children’s wasn’t as scary as it could have been, thanks to the skills and personalities of the Cancer and Blood Disorders team, Ledin said, noting that Dr. Bruce Bostrom had a Cookie Monster doll in his office that she enjoyed. Her parents, too, appreciated the dedication of her doctors and nurses.

“My dad would see Dr. Margaret Heisel Kurth in my room, going over paperwork at 11:30 at night,” Ledin said. “And then he would see her in that same spot in the early morning. The team never stopped taking care of their patients.”

With the help of surgery and chemotherapy, her tumor was gone, Ledin said. She’s been in remission ever since. She’s proud and grateful for surviving such an ordeal at an early age, and she was able to live a normal childhood in Plymouth, Minn. Ledin later went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in health care management at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.

Now her life has come full circle.

“Where I wanted to work my whole life was at Children’s,” she said. “But I never thought I’d be lucky enough to work for Children’s Foundation right out of college.”

Ledin, already employed at her dream job, went a giant leap further by making an estate gift to Children’s in early 2012. The Richard, Pamela, Katherine, and Christina Ledin Family Endowment will support the Cancer and Blood Disorders program at Children’s by providing it money and resources for years to come.

“Children’s saved my life, and we as a patient family were helped in different ways,” she said. “That level of care is due to people’s generosity, and I don’t have to wait until I’m older to think about making a difference for other families.”

As Ledin credits her healing journey at Children’s for playing a strong role in the formation of her life’s passions and values, the young woman often finds herself reflecting on moments as a child spent with her Cancer and Blood Disorders care team.

“The one thing I miss the most about my Dr. Heisel Kurth checkup visits,” she said, “is her cleaning my ears.”


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.