Why I Give
Valuable Supporters Share Their Stories
Hennepin Healthcare runs on the generosity of our community - patients, team members, volunteers, Board members, and community members. These valuable supporters have chosen to share their stories and reflections on why they give to the Foundation.
Ka Vang, Meet Minneapolis
Rewriting the Narrative
Ka Vang is helping rewrite the narrative of Minneapolis. As the vice president of equity, diversity, inclusion and access at Meet Minneapolis, Ka was part of a group initiative to focus on social corporate responsibility and giving back to the community.
“We should help our neighbors, especially with everything we’ve gone through the past couple years – the pandemic and civil unrest,” Ka shared. “I instantly thought of Hennepin Healthcare.”
After asking what the hospital’s greatest need was, Ka organized a clothing drive over the winter and asked Meet Minneapolis employees, as well as other tourism and hospitality businesses, to donate brand new warm clothes.
Not all patients have clean clothes when they leave the hospital because the clothes are sometimes cut off in the ambulance or are ruined due to illness or injury. There also may be financial barriers to accessing warm clothes.
Over the course of three weeks, Meet Minneapolis gathered about 500 clothing items worth over $5,000 to donate to Hennepin Healthcare’s clothing closet.
“I liked the focus on new clothes because people with low incomes don’t usually get new clothes. This project has also been personal for me because I was once a recipient of clothing closets and food pantries,” Ka said.
Ka is Hmong American and came to the U.S. after the Vietnam War in 1980. Before then, she spent five years in a UN refugee camp in Thailand. Ka described becoming aware of her environment then – extreme poverty, mental health issues, and violence.
“From an early age, I understood there was injustice in the world,” Ka said. “It made me aware of social justice and race – it wasn’t lost on me that all the people helping us were white, and all the people in desperate situations looked like me. This experience informed my desire to give.”
Years later, Ka is living this desire by building a partnership between Meet Minneapolis and Hennepin Healthcare. The clothing drive is just the start.
“Our goal is to maintain the relationship and help the tourism and hospitality industry commit to the mission of Hennepin Healthcare,” Ka said. “There’s such breadth and depth to the services the hospital provides and who it cares for. We wanted to help an organization that is so trusted and has meaning to Minneapolis.”
The other goal is to continue to rewrite the narrative of Minneapolis and show that neighbors care for each other. Philanthropy is a crucial part of that narrative for Ka.
“I feel proud of giving back because there are so many that gave to me and contributed to my success,” Ka said. “Not only are we as Meet Minneapolis giving, but we’re mobilizing the local tourism and hospitality industry with the invitation to join us.”
Paula Byrd, Grateful Family Member
An Angel for AngelEye
Life-saving care nearly 63 years ago has led to a generous $10,000 donation today.
Paula Byrd, now 84, was 21-years old when she unexpectedly gave birth to her son, Corey, at home. A few months later, she took Corey to the University of Minnesota hospital for a routine infant check-up. Their pediatrician immediately noticed that Corey needed serious medical attention and recommended taking him to what was then Minneapolis General Hospital.
“It turned out to be a blood disorder,” Paula said. “Corey was in an oxygen tent and had tubes everywhere. I didn’t think he would live.”
But after nearly a month of around-the-clock care and multiple blood transfusions, Paula took her healthy son home.
“I can’t express how nice everyone was to us,” Paula shared. “My husband at the time and I were so young and frightened, and everyone was so reassuring. When we left, we were told there was no fee. I always said that someday, when I could afford it, I would give back.”
Paula and Forrest, her second husband of nearly 59 years, now live in Oregon, far from the Minnesota winters they don’t miss. Corey is now a healthy man who will turn 63 next month.
Paula and Forrest have talked about what sort of positive impact they can make to mark their legacy.
“We were so touched by the kindness and care our family received that Forrest and I wanted to pay it forward to help other infants and their families,” Paula said. “We are so grateful to Hennepin Healthcare.”
Their $10,000 donation went to support AngelEye equipment in the neonatal intensive care unit, which allows families to see their babies from a distance while they are unable to visit.
“All those years, I was saving for Hennepin Healthcare – we wouldn’t have our son without them!” Paula said.
Chuck Oberg, MD, Inspired Team Member
Advocating for Child Rights
For Chuck Oberg, MD, a pediatrics physician at Hennepin Healthcare, children’s rights are both a local and global issue.
Formerly the chief of pediatrics for Hennepin Healthcare, Dr. Oberg helped Minneapolis become one of the first pilot Child-Friendly Cities in the United States in August 2020, a UNICEF initiative. He has written and published several pieces about children’s rights, such as the treatment of children at the U.S.-Mexican border, and has taught at the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Oberg’s most recent contribution, a $3,000 donation to our Children’s Literacy Program, is one of many throughout his over 40 years with Hennepin Healthcare. Through the national Reach Out and Read program, the Hennepin pediatrics team offers children and their families’ books while at medical appointments.
Dr. Oberg’s donation will help buy 500 copies of the book I Have a Right to Be a Child, written by Alain Serres and illustrated by Aurélia Fronty. Originally written in French, the book has been translated into English and is geared toward children ages 4-7.
Dr. Oberg said he believed in the book and the literacy program so much that he didn’t want to wait until the funds were raised – he donated himself to jumpstart distributing the new book.
“The book has beautiful illustrations and text that talk to children about what their rights are as a part of the human community,” Dr. Oberg said.
He said I Have a Right to Be a Child is especially important now, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial justice reckoning.
“We thought it was really important that as a department, we make sure our children know that Hennepin Healthcare is a safe place to be. We support them and care for them,” Dr. Oberg said.
Laura Schommer, Grateful Patient & Volunteer
"The Best of the Best of the Best."
Laura’s first experience with experience with Hennepin Healthcare was back in the 1980s when her parents were patients. Her father became good friends with his cardiologist Dr. Richard Assingner; they even went fishing together.
Two decades later, Laura ended up becoming a patient too, and the outstanding care continued.
“That inspired me to start volunteering, 13 years ago in Spiritual Care,” Laura said. “It has been an overwhelming experience. No team of chaplains does it better.”
Laura is considered a Eucharistic Minister now.
“I receive so much more than I give as I interact with patients and even staff,” Laura said. “So many patients are alone and really wish for a conversation and a visit while they are in the hospital.”
An article in the Foundation’s newsletter Impact about Spiritual Care, written by David Hottinger, inspired Laura’s donation to the program.
“It was in recognition of his team and the phenomenal service they provide that moved me,” Laura said. “I also recognize the opportunity to expand their abilities and appreciate the addition of Muslim faith leaders this year.”
In January, Laura went in for a routine cancer check and ended up staying in the hospital for over three weeks for lung surgery.
“So many people visited with me, everyone was so kind,” Laura said. “The best part is I know I was not treated special because I volunteer here, I witnessed this kindness offered to everyone.”
Laura shared that she’s feeling much better and received her COVID-19 vaccine.
“I am 70 years old and have a lot left to give – at least twenty more years!”