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.

River Towers Condominiums

50 Years of Tradition

Tradition runs strong for the residents of the River Towers Condominiums in downtown Minneapolis. For the past 50 years, the residents have held a holiday party where they also bring donations to Hennepin Healthcare’s Pediatric Department.

It all started when three residents, Clem Duffy, Fritz Fairbanks and Jerry Evens, who have all since passed, decided to throw the first winter holiday party in December 1973 as a way to bring their community together. The three men bought all the food and drinks and took turns bartending, and in return, attending residents brought new toys for kids in the hospital over the holiday season.




New Clem And Ryan

As the years passed, current resident Ryan Rother took over planning the event in 2010, and instead of donating toys, the residents gave financial donations to allow the pediatrics team more flexibility to spend where the need is the greatest (and wrapping over 100 toys is a lot of work!).

“People often want to give, but they’re not always sure where,” Ryan said. “This is a nice option.”

Ryan explained that the party has a dual purpose: to give to a good cause and to unite neighbors.

“With 500 condos in the complex, it’s one of the few events where we can all get together at one time,” Ryan shared. “It’s especially nice for those who live alone or have family that live far away.”

Even the Covid-19 pandemic didn’t completely stop the condominium residents. Although they had to pause the holiday party for a couple of years, some residents still made individual donations to Pediatrics. When they brought the party back in 2023, they made their largest combined donation yet. 

“After 50 years, we hope to keep maintaining the tradition,” Ryan said. “We’ve never thought about switching to donate elsewhere – the kids have a special place in our hearts.”

Thank you to Ryan and the River Towers Condominium residents – their tradition has brought joy to many in our community and in Pediatrics.  

We invite organizations, civic groups, neighbors and friends to join together to do good. We have a menu of team-building activities and in-kind drives that benefit our patients and team members. Visit our Doing Good page to decide what moves you.

Katie Zaman, Hennepin Healthcare Foundation

Just Between Us

When thinking about what nonprofit to choose for her annual birthday fundraiser, Katie Zaman, a grants professional with the Hennepin Healthcare Foundation and a Madison, Wisconsin resident, selected the Between Us program. Because Katie works on grants with the Between Us team, she was familiar with their mission to provide reproductive health services and education to our patients, with a special focus on youth.

“Because it’s completely grant-funded, their dollars are allocated very specifically,” Katie said. “The team doesn’t have wiggle room for when unexpected expenses come up, which are usually related to their patient population.”




Katie Cropped Without Paws

Katie praised the Between Us team for their preventative work.

“They’re meeting with patients when they’re young and teaching them how to interact with the healthcare system,” Katie shared. “That’s a life skill and something everyone needs to know.”  

To aid her goal, Katie chose to use Funraise, the Foundation’s peer-to-peer fundraising software. Funraise guides the user to create a personal web page containing their story about what they are fundraising for and why, as well as photos and videos.  From there, Katie shared the link to her Funraise page on her Instagram stories and planned a posting schedule.  

Katie was elated that she surpassed her fundraiser goal, especially since she works remotely from Madison and wasn’t sure if supporting an out-of-state nonprofit would resonate with her friends and followers. For an extra incentive, she offered homemade body butter and hand-painted votive candles (mostly of cats) as a gift to those who donated a certain amount.

“It helped that the gifts had a personal connection,” Katie said. “It was something from me to remember their donation and to be recognized for their generosity.”

She added that her birthday fundraisers restore her faith in humanity.

“Being a human is hard,” Katie said. “But people’s hearts are open and generous. I truly believe we all ultimately want to help each other, and we just need a pathway. It feels amazing to make that connection for people and pool resources together.”

When Katie told them about her fundraiser, the Between Us team was brought to tears.

“It’s great to know that this donation can help with those extra expenses like emergency contraception and transportation for patients,” Katie said. “These connections and resources will benefit patients for the rest of their lives.”

You can also fundraise for Hennepin Healthcare from anywhere you work, for any program of your choice, for any occasion. Visit our Funraise website to start your fundraiser today.

Tree of Hope

Spreading Holiday Cheer

What started out as a toy delivery to pediatric patients in a few northern Minnesota hospitals has grown to every hospital and Ronald McDonald House in the state, as well as a few in Wisconsin and one in North Dakota. When pilot Elaine Morrow and a group of her fellow aviators heard that kids were spending winter holidays in the hospital without any gifts and sometimes unable to spend time with family, they started the Tree of Hope to spread cheer.

“Nobody should be alone in the hospital during the holidays,” Elaine said. “One mother told me that her daughter hadn’t smiled in six months because of her pain. There’s not much I can do to relieve that, but what I can do is give her a book to read or a game to play and take her mind off the pain.”



Tree of Hope volunteers dropping off toys

For the past 30 years, about 80-100 Minnesota pilots and other volunteer groups have gathered at a hangar on the first weekend of December to collect and deliver toys – some by plane, some by car. Jason Tronerud and his wife Michelle took over the delivery to HCMC’s pediatric patients in 2017.

“Every year I’m struck by how much people are giving to the toy delivery,” Jason shared. “It’s heartwarming.”

He added that one year, he was able to receive a tour of the pediatric department, which made the Tree of Hope mission much more real to him and his family.

“It’s so easy to focus on your own world. It’s all about balance.” Jason said. “Only good comes from helping others.”

Elaine praised the HCMC nurses for their dedication to the children.

“Nurses do a lot of work to make sure that this time of year is magical for children,” Elaine said. “Some of them have ‘Santa parties’ when they distribute the gifts.”

Elaine added that she’s amazed Tree of Hope has been able to pull it off every year, no matter the weather or economic conditions.

“A lot has changed in 30 years, but kids are still in the hospital,” Elaine said. “We couldn’t do this without the incredible number of Minnesotans that are willing to give their time and money to help others. That’s why we give.”

Kathleen Hustad, Associated Healthcare Credit Union

A Miraculous Birth Story

Eleven years after her son’s miraculous birth at Hennepin Healthcare, Kathleen Hustad is giving back with her team at Associated Healthcare Credit Union (AHCU).

When Kathleen was newly pregnant, her first choice was to go to Hennepin Healthcare, especially after hearing about the doula program.

“I had always heard really good things about Hennepin Healthcare – how it has amazing clinical teams and is a teaching hospital,” Kathleen said.

During an ultrasound, Kathleen and her care team discovered she had placenta previa, which put her at high risk for a Cesarean section. Although her son’s due date was September, Kathleen had an emergency in July and ended up at Hennepin Healthcare’s emergency department.


Kathleen and baby Cole at HCMC

“The EMTs were so professional and caring,” Kathleen shared. “I also appreciated the chaplain that provided spiritual support once we arrived. Everyone was so encouraging.”  

After running tests, providers determined that Kathleen could stay at the hospital on bed rest and didn’t need to deliver early.  

“I was there for a few weeks, so I got to know everyone from the folks doing my daily blood draws and ultrasounds to the cleaning crews. I felt so cared for by every person that played a role.”

Kathleen successfully transitioned to bedrest at home and then delivered her son at 38 weeks with a planned C-section, which she described as a miracle. She expressed appreciation for the OBGYN for welcoming as much of her birth plan as possible and her doula.

“That might not have been feasible at other hospitals,” Kathleen said. “My pregnancy and birth could have been a traumatic experience, but with the support of Hennepin Healthcare, I have positive memories. Every person treated me with courtesy and dignity and took time to listen.”

Eleven years later, she and her son are living healthy lives, and Kathleen works for AHCU, a Minnesota credit union serving healthcare professionals for over 70 years.

To express their appreciation and gratitude, the AHCU team committed to sponsoring a Care Cart for employees each quarter throughout 2023. Each month, eight Care Carts stocked with drinks, snacks, face towelettes, and lip balm rotate to different hospital units to boost the spirits of our dedicated care teams.

“Now more than ever, working in healthcare is demanding,” Kathleen said. “We want to show extra support because we value our healthcare professionals.”

Kathleen shared that community philanthropy is important to the AHCU team because they want to create an emotional connection and relationship with members and to show that through 70 years of business, they are there for anything.

“We’ve been with some members for over 40 years – that’s super rewarding to know we’ve helped them,” Kathleen said.

She encouraged everyone to remember to thank healthcare professionals for all that they do.

“Thanking and appreciating them makes such a difference,” Kathleen said. “Spreading that gratitude will help this critical healthcare system continue providing exceptional care.”  


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.

Meet Minneapolis team with clothes to donate

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.”