Author Archives: Brady.Gervais

Team Superstars runs, raises more than $60,000 at Twin Cities Marathon

Members of Team Superstars raised more than $60,000 as part of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon weekend events.

Members of Team Superstars raised more than $60,000 as part of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon weekend events.

We’re so proud of Team Superstars, our first-ever charity endurance team made up of 49 committed employees, patients’ loved ones and community members.

The team went the extra mile this weekend by participating in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, 10-mile, 10K or 5K — and raising $60,157 for the most amazing people on earth.

PHOTO GALLERY: Team Superstars at Twin Cities Marathon

Support the team and learn more by visiting the Team Superstars page.

National Night Out promotes neighborhood safety

Communities across the United States will gather today to celebrate National Night Out, an evening dedicated to strengthening communities and promoting safer streets. While your local barbecue or block party is a great time to reconnect with your neighbors and enjoy a potluck, it’s also a great opportunity to review home and neighborhood safety tips with your children. Here are five quick tips to bring up with your kids during your neighborhood event this week.

1. Post important personal and contact information in a central place in your home.

  • Include parents’ names, street address, mobile, home and work phone numbers, 911, poison control, fire department, police department, and helpful neighbors.
  • Use a neighborhood party to help children to familiarize themselves with their neighbors and identify whom they can go to for help.

2. Teach your child how and when to call 911.

  • Discuss specifics of what an emergency is and when 911 should be used.
  • Role play different scenarios and make sure kids know what information to give to the 911 operator.
  • For younger kids, discuss the different roles of emergency workers and what they do.

3. Discuss “stranger danger.”

  • Talk with your kids about who is allowed to pick them up from school or activities.
  • Talk to your kids about the importance of walking in pairs.
  • Ensure they always take the same route home from school and do not take shortcuts.

4. Practice proper street safety.

  • Have children practice looking both ways before stepping into the street, using the crosswalk and obeying the walk/don’t walk signals.
  • Teach kids what different road signs mean, such as a stop sign.
  • Remind children about the importance of biking with a helmet and reflective light.

5. Talk to your children about fire safety.

  • If fire trucks are present at the neighborhood party, use their presence as an opportunity to discuss what to do if there were a fire.
  • Plan and practice escape routes in your home and designate a meeting spot in case you get separated.

Children’s will join our neighbors in Minneapolis at the Phillips West neighborhood’s National Night Out block party from 5-8 p.m., along 27th Street between Columbus and Portland avenues. All are welcome to attend the evening of food, entertainment and kids’ activities, including the Children’s Making Safe Simple booth, where we’ll play games and give away prizes. We hope to see you there!

Passionate runner and Children’s employee to go extra mile for kids


Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota employee and Team Superstars member Nathan Branson is running the Twin Cities Marathon to raise money for Children’s.

When Nathan Branson isn’t at Children’s repairing and maintaining medical equipment, you’ll likely find him at Lake Harriet, pounding laps with his local running club.

subscribe_blogThis summer, he’s running with extra purpose. He’s training for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, which he’ll run on behalf of Children’s charity team, Team Superstars. He’s also fundraising for Children’s urgent needs.

“After my last marathon in 2014, I was thinking about taking some time off, but when I heard about running TCM for Children’s, I was all in,” he said. “What a great idea to be able to do something I love like running and be able to give back to the place I love to work, Children’s.”

He has worked at Children’s for eight years in the biomedical department as an engineer. He loves starting his mornings at Children’s, where he says everyone he encounters wishes him a good morning.

Nathan regularly participates in Children’s HeartBeat 5000 and Pine Tree Runs 5K/10K and gives back by donating paid time off.

Brady Gervais is an annual giving officer for the foundation at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Ralph to go the distance for granddaughter in October

Ralph Imholte

Ralph Imholte is running the Twin Cities Marathon in honor of his granddaughter, Harper.

Brady Gervais 

On the first day registration opened for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Ralph Imholte signed up, becoming the inaugural member of Children’s charity endurance team, Team Superstars.

For Imholte, 62, running for a cause is one thing in his life that’s simply pure and good, he said. He’s running in honor of his granddaughter, Harper, whose life was saved at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota when she was 3 years old. She was diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome due to E. coli, and she suffered severe damage to her kidneys, liver and pancreas. She spent two months in Children’s pediatric intensive care unit and required a transplant.

Four years later, Harper is thriving.

It won’t be Imholte’s first marathon, but it will be the first time he has run more than 26.2 miles in five years. Neither the distance nor the fundraising seem to faze him. He has raised $3,650 for Children’s and has no plans of stopping.

Imholte gives back in other ways, too. He joins his family every year and serves a meal at the Ronald McDonald House inside Children’s – Minneapolis through the Cooks for Kids program.

“When I get to the finish line (of the Twin Cities Marathon), I know the next question will be what more can I do?” Ralph said.

Support Ralph and other runners today.

Brady Gervais is an annual giving officer for the foundation at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

6 tips to stay hydrated in hot weather

Follow these quick tips to keep your kids safe from dehydration when they’re out playing in hot temperatures.

Summertime definitely is here, and what kid can’t wait to get outside and play? But staying safe in the sun, and avoiding dehydration, is important.

We believe in Making Safe Simple. Here are some quick tips to help your kids avoid dehydration:

  • subscribe_blogOn hot days, make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. The human body requires at least 1 liter of water, daily.
  • Dehydration means that a child’s body doesn’t have enough fluid. Dehydration can result from not drinking; vomiting, diarrhea, or any combination of these conditions. Sweating or urinating too much rarely causes it.
  • Thirst is not a good early indicator of dehydration. By the time a child feels thirsty, he or she may already be dehydrated. And thirst can be quenched before the necessary body fluids have been replaced.
  • Signs of dehydration in children include the following: sticky or dry mouth, few or no tears when crying, eyes that look sunken into the head, lack of urine or wet diapers for six to eight hours in an infant (or only a small amount of dark yellow urine), lack of urine for 12 hours in an older child (or only a small amount of dark yellow urine); dry, cool skin; irritability, and fatigue or dizziness in an older child.
  • If you suspect your child is dehydrated, start by replenishing his or her body with fluids. Plain water is the best option for the first hour or two. The child can drink as much as he or she wants. After this, the child might need drinks containing sugar and electrolytes (salts) or regular food. Also, the child should rest in a cool, shaded environment until the lost fluid has been replaced.
  • Call your doctor immediately or take your child to the nearest emergency department if there is no improvement or condition is worsening.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we care for more pediatric emergency and trauma patients than any other health care system in our region, seeing about 90,000 kids each year between our St. Paul and Minneapolis hospitals. Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis is the area’s only Level I pediatric trauma center in a hospital dedicated to only kids, which means we offer the highest level of care to critically injured kids. From the seriously sick to the critically injured, we’re ready for anything.

Team Superstars runner returns to her first home


Children’s child life specialist Melissa Haun plans to run her first marathon in October as a member of Team Superstars, Children’s new running team.

Brady Gervais

At 33, Melissa Haun is back where she started.

Born just shy of 30 weeks’ gestation at 2 pounds, 6 ounces, she spent her first month at Children’s — in the neonatal intensive care unit. After gaining strength and weight, she moved to the transition nursery at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Melissa Haun as a baby

Melissa Haun as a baby

Today, she is a child life specialist at Children’s, where she focuses on our Comfort Promise. That is, she helps Children’s do everything possible to prevent and treat pain in kids.

“Children’s is where my heart belongs,” Melissa said.

After spending her day educating staff organization-wide about taking the sting out of needle pokes and blood draws — part of the Comfort Promise — she’s training at night for her first-ever marathon on behalf of the cause she loves most.

Melissa in the NICU

Melissa in the NICU

In October, she will go the extra mile by running the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and raising money for Children’s child life and pain and palliative care programs.

“ ‘Running ONE marathon’ is a line straight from my bucket list. I am not getting any younger, and when I saw that Children’s was having its first charity endurance team — Team Superstars — I knew it was meant to be,” Melissa said. “I’ve been told that you get addicted to running marathons, but just in case, I wanted to make sure Children’s got first dibs!”

subscribe_blogAlthough Melissa ran in high school and has been running since, she shares the same fear as every other first-time marathoner — stringing 26.2 miles together.

She’s anxious for the big day, too.

“I am most excited about my goal of getting friends and family to sign up to cheer as (S)MILE-MARKERS, and pass every one of them,” she said. “Don’t underestimate the power of each familiar face!”

Brady Gervais is an annual giving officer in the foundation at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

6 ways to protect kids’ skin from the sun

Sunlight is important for vitamin D synthesis; however, the risks of sunburn, damage to the skin and skin cancer trump it. (iStock photo)

Molly Martyn, MD

One of the great aspects of childhood is being outdoors. Whether you’re at the swimming pool, a soccer game or the park, it’s important for all family members to practice sun safety. Much of our lifetime sun exposure happens in the first 18 years of our lives, and protecting the skin of infants and children will reduce their skin-cancer risk as they grow older.

What are different ways to protect children’s skin from the sun?

1. The first and easiest way to protect children’s skin is to be thoughtful about sun exposure. The sun’s ultraviolet rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so it’s safest to plan for time outdoors in the morning or late afternoon.

2. When possible, stay in the shade.

3. Keep sun hats and sunglasses easily accessible in the stroller or car.

4. Children should be dressed in cool, comfortable, lightweight clothing to cover their skin. Dark clothing with a tight weave is best (you can test this by holding the cloth up to a light and seeing how much light gets through).

5. Use swim shirts when at the swimming pool. Clothing made to protect from the sun is given an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating.

6. Finally, for the parts of skin that can’t be covered, there are sunblock and sunscreen.

subscribe_blogWhat is the difference between sunscreen and sunblock?

Sunscreen chemically absorbs UV radiation and dissipates it as heat. Sunblock provides a physical barrier that reflects UV radiation.  Sunblocks contain compounds like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that make them thick and may leave a visible layer (or block) on the skin.  Many products for children contain a combination of both.

How important is SPF? The higher the better?

SPF stands for sun protection factor; it measures how well sunscreen protects from ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. When applied correctly, SPF 15 absorbs 93 percent of the sun’s UVB rays, SPF 30 absorbs 97 percent, and SPF 50 absorbs 98 percent.

What should you look for in a sunblock or sunscreen?

Sunscreens and sunblocks are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the labels contain helpful information. Look for a product that is labeled:

  •  Broad-spectrum: This means that it blocks UVB and UVA sun rays.
  •  SPF 30 or higher
  • “Water resistant” or “very water resistant”; that means that the SPF is maintained after 40 or 80 minutes in the water.

What is the best way to apply sunscreen?

Use a lot! Most people only use about half of what they need. Cover all exposed areas, paying special attention to the areas that people commonly miss like the ears, the tops of feet and the backs of hands, along the hairline, and even in parts in the hair.

Be careful when applying sunscreen around the eyes.  It may be helpful to use a sunscreen stick for easier application in that area.

Sunscreen should be applied to dry skin at least 15 minutes prior to sun exposure to allow it to absorb into the skin. Reapply every two hours OR after being in the water or sweating heavily.

Is there anything special to know about protecting babies’ skin from the sun?

Babies younger than 6 months have extremely sensitive skin. As much as possible, they should be kept out of direct sunlight. Dress them in light, protective clothing and use wide-billed sun hats. For areas of their bodies that can’t be covered (like their faces or the backs of their hands), use an infant sunblock with at least SPF 30.

What about getting enough vitamin D? Will limiting sun exposure lead to a low vitamin D level?

Sunlight is important for vitamin D synthesis; however, the risks of sunburn, damage to the skin and skin cancer trump it. Children can get vitamin D through their diet, and some people also choose to take additional vitamin D supplements.

What are the best remedies for a sunburn?

You can care for sunburns by applying cool compresses and aloe vera gel. Gentle moisturizers can be applied to intact skin. Ibuprofen may help to relieve discomfort and can be used for children older than 6 months.

To read more about sun safety and protection, good resources include:

Molly Martyn, MD, is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Kangaroo care at Children’s helps baby Lauren

The McConnell family, Jethro and Becky, with daughter Lauren (Photos courtesy of the McConnell family)

The McConnell family, Jethro and Becky, with daughter Lauren (Photos courtesy of the McConnell family)

Brady Gervais

Becky McConnell waited 11 days before she could hold her daughter, Lauren.

Getting to hold her for the first time was a milestone for the new mom and her daughter, who was born prematurely. She remembers how it felt holding Lauren skin to skin, against her chest; it’s called kangaroo care, which helps babies bond, feel less stressed and heal. And it’s what Becky said she believes helped Lauren get through some rough patches.

“She knew she was alive, that she would be OK and that I was her mom,” she said. “I didn’t know I could love a little girl so much.”

Becky uses kangaroo care, skin-to-skin contact, on newborn daughter Lauren.

Becky uses kangaroo care, skin-to-skin contact, on newborn daughter Lauren.

Lauren was born at 24 weeks, 5 days on March 9 at Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia before she was rushed to Children’s, where she since has spent her days in the neonatal intensive care unit. It had been a normal pregnancy until hours earlier when Becky experienced symptoms that pointed to a bladder infection. While her care team examined her, they discovered she was 6 centimeters dilated.

Because of Children’s supporters, the McConnell family has experienced outstanding care and been touched by generosity every day of their journey: the kangaroo chairs are specially designed recliners for supporting natural skin-to-skin bonding; the Ronald McDonald House that provided Becky and Lauren’s dad, Jethro, with a cozy bed and a hot meal just down the hall; the NICVIEW cameras that allow Becky to see her daughter now that she’s back at work.

Children’s nurses have touched the McConnell family, too. On Becky’s first day back at work, she said one of Lauren’s nurses asked how she was doing and how work was going.

subscribe_blog“The nurses have been beyond phenomenal,” Becky said. “They’re not only there for Lauren; they’re there for us.”

Becky said she thinks Lauren will get to go home in June, but “I don’t want to rush things,” she said. “She’s in the best place.”

While the McConnell family is unable to attend today’s fifth annual Baby Steps 3K this year, they hope to participate in years to come to support Children’s neonatal program.

The McConnell family

The McConnell family

Brady Gervais is an annual giving officer for the foundation at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

The trouble with toe walking


If there’s limited motion in the ankle and a child is consistently toe walking, he or she is put in serial casts or carbon-fiber braces.

Toe walking can seem cute, at first. But if it persists after a child is about 20 months old, it can be a problem.

Toddlers develop a heel-toe walking pattern about 20 weeks after they begin walking alone and no longer should be toe walking, said Nicole Brown, DPT. If left untreated, toe walking can lead to future injury or pain in your child.

“I think with little ones, everyone thinks it’s adorable because you don’t know if it’s causing problems,” said Sara McGrane, whose daughter, Molly, started seeing Brown when she was 5 years old.


CHILDREN’S GRAND ROUNDS: New evidence in toe walking


At her daughter’s checkup when she was 3, the primary care physician told her parents they needed to encourage her to stop walking on her toes, McGrane said. When she was 4, the parents were told again to keep working with Molly. It was at her visit when she was 5 that her primary care physician noticed she was toe walking and referred her to the Children’s Rehabilitation Clinic in Minnetonka.

subscribe_blog“When she was little, it was cute,” she said. “She had always been a toe walker.”

Often, Brown doesn’t see patients until they’re 6 or 7 years old. There’s a misconception that kids will grow out of toe walking, she said. Those who are seen at 2 or 3 years old have a better prognosis, and treatment time generally is shorter. She has treated patients as young as 18 months and as old as 13.

“We want to get these kids in earlier,” she said. “By the time they’re 6 or 7, they can have structural damage to their foot.”

Treatment varies and depends on the severity of the condition. If Brown can see a patient before there’s limited range of motion, she can retrain the child to resume a normal walking pattern through physical therapy, which on average lasts six months, she said.

If there’s limited motion in the ankle and the child is consistently toe walking, he or she is put in serial casts or carbon-fiber braces, she said. The serial casts are like a typical fiberglass cast for a broken leg. They’re taken off every week and put back on to accommodate the new range of motion that was achieved. Once a child’s motion improves, Brown uses ankle braces. Physical therapy also is part of the prescription and on average lasts about a year.

In Molly’s case, her heel cord was tight enough that she required bracing, McGrane said. She met with Nicole for physical therapy for about 10 months.

“We were amazed at how quickly the process went,” McGrane said. “We are big believers in the program.”

What is toe walking?

Toe walking is a diagnosis in which a person walks with bilateral toe-to-toe walking pattern. There may be a medical cause or it may be idiopathic in nature.

How does Children’s treat patients who toe walk?

  • We offer serial casting, orthotic intervention and physical therapy treatment for treatment of toe walking.
  • Serial casting has been proven to be an effective intervention for toe walkers in treatment of tight heel cords to increase the range of motion and to also weaken the heel cord muscle to allow us to retrain the child’s walking pattern.
  • Children’s and Orthotic Care Services have designed a new type of solid ankle foot orthotic that mimics serial casts for treatment of toe walking.
  • The orthotic brace is a two-pull carbon-fiber solid ankle foot orthotic. The carbon fiber on the outer shell decreases the amount of available multi-planar ankle motion, which mimics the effects of serial casting through increasing range of motion through the heel cords as well as weakening the heel cords but allows the child more flexibility in that they can take off the brace to shower or participate in certain activities.
  • After serial casting or carbon-fiber-bracing intervention has been completed, children are then placed in a two-pull plastic ankle foot orthotic to retrain their gait pattern to allow for a consistent heel-toe walking pattern.

Children’s research in toe walking

We compared outcomes in treatment of toe walking gait with carbon-fiber-orthotic intervention and serial casting. Children were enrolled in this study, and results have shown good outcomes. The research study offers financial assistance as well as a team approach in the treatment of a child’s toe-walking pattern.

Longtime Children’s employee goes extra mile for kids

Valerie Butterfield (center) with her dad, Keith (left), and brother, Douglas (Photo courtesy of Valerie Butterfield)

Valerie Butterfield (center) with her dad, Keith (left), and brother, Douglas (Photo courtesy of Valerie Butterfield)

Brady Gervais

Thirty years ago Valerie Butterfield had her first Children’s experience. Her brother, Douglas, who was 7 at the time, was diagnosed with and treated for type 1 diabetes.

This was a scary time for the entire family. Thanks to the progress in juvenile diabetes research and treatment, a diabetes diagnosis is more manageable today.

Knowing what her family went through, Valerie, a longtime Children’s employee in information technology services, has decided to support other patients and families beyond her day job. On Oct. 4, she’ll run her first marathon — the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon — on behalf of Children’s charity running team, Team Superstars.

subscribe_blog“My family thinks it’s pretty awesome,” the mother of two said.

Valerie said she’s excited to raise awareness for a cause in which she believes and is humbled by the financial and emotional support of her friends, family and colleagues. Her dad, Keith, also is a Children’s employee, with more than 20 years of dedicated service. To date, she has raised more than $300.

Valerie always has been active off and on in running and various sports activities. Two years ago, following the birth of her second child, she began running regularly and joined Moms on the Run. She has run many distance races, half-marathons and the Ragnar Relay — an overnight, 200-mile epic relay with 12 of your closest friends (or strangers).

In addition to running her first marathon for a cause, she wants to set an example for her two sons.

“I’m grateful that I have healthy children,” she said, “and I want to show my children an example of healthy living.”

Support your favorite Superstar’s fundraising efforts by giving today.

Brady Gervais is an annual giving officer in the foundation at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.