STMA grad addresses need for state’s first children’s hospice
There is nothing more heart-wrenching than the reality that some children have terminal illnesses and won’t live for long.
St. Michael native and 1998 STMA grad Katie Lindenfelser is all too familiar with that reality. As a music therapist, massage therapist and reflexologist, she began working with hospice patients and found that children and families were especially responsive to music therapy, massage therapy and reflexology. And that these families were in need of services.
She had worked for a hospice in Chicago and returned to Minnesota to provide music therapy at Ridgeview Hospice.
“I observed, and the children’s parents commented on, the beauty of seeing their child smile during music, the bonding experience it created, and the memories of love and joy that remained,” Lindenfelser said.
And so began her journey to advocate for children with life-limiting conditions to receive music therapy, massage and other services.
That passion led her all the way to Australia, where she studied for her master’s degree and learned about children’s hospices. She came back with extensive knowledge about advocating, writing grants and pursuing music therapy, massage therapy and reflexology for children receiving palliatative care.
She then returned to Australia, to which her husband, Matt Christensen (STMA Class of 1999), asked her the following question: “Why not work with children who are dying at our hospice in Minnesota?”
Lindenfelser responded that Minnesota doesn’t have a children’s hospice. And, she said, Christensen responded, “Let’s build one.”
So began the journey of Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesota, which Lindenfelser founded in 2009 and serves as executive director. The goal is to build the state’s first children’s hospice.
“With additional support from leading experts in the field and community, this organization will serve children with life-limiting conditions and their families through respite stays for the child and/or family and by providing loving and compassionate care at the end-of-life and beyond,” Lindenfelser said.
Surprisingly, it’s not just Minnesota that lacks children’s hospices. Lindenfelser said only three exist in the whole country, whereas the United Kingdom has 46 and Canada has six.
Children’s Lighthouse aims to raise $7.5 million to $10 million by fall of this year to break ground on a facility in Chaska. She said the campaign would include in-kind donations for land, contractors, building supplies and more.
“We would have to pay for the building, because we can’t operate with a mortgage,” she said.
The goal is to raise two years of operating funds and to raise money continuously until insurance companies and Medicaid see the cost savings.
“We need to get up and running first,” she said.
Her campaign has some very famous supporters, notably some former Twins, especially the late National Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, as well as National Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew and Paul Molitor, and Twins Hall of Fame members Tony Oliva and Jack Morris.
“Killebrew was an advocate for hospices around the country and he loved kids,” Lindenfelser said. “He was very vocal about his hospice journey.”
Shortly after Killebrew’s death, Lindenfelser contacted his widow, Nita, who “quickly said she wanted to make it a part of his legacy and to get his close friends and other Twins behind it.”
That support led to the Twins offering an annual Evening at the Ballpark fundraiser. This year’s event is at the Twins/Seattle game Saturday, May 17. Lindenfelser said $10 of every ticket ordered goes toward helping build the home.
And her efforts aren’t just supported by the Twins. Lindensfelser said she recently met legendary former local news anchor Don Shelby.
“He said we need to tell people that this is shameful, that we’re not caring for our kids,” she said.
If Lindenfelser realizes her dream to help children who have the greatest need, that shame won’t exist much longer.
Contact Aaron Brom at [email protected]
Twins benefit for children
Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesota is hosting a special second annual Evening at the Ballpark at the Twins/Seattle game Saturday, May 17.
Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesota was started by St. Michael native Katie Lindenfelser, who is the organization’s executive director. Its mission is to build the first hospice home for children in Minnesota.
At the game they will celebrate the mission and raise money for Harmon Killebrew Hospice Home for Kids Fund, benefiting Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesota.
During his retirement years, Killebrew was a spokesperson for the hospice movement and embraced the role it plays. Killebrew’s family and friends have created this fund to help build the Midwest’s first hospice and respite home serving children with a shortened life-expectancy and their families.
Ten dollars of every ticket ordered goes toward helping build the home, and can be considered a tax-deductible gift to Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesota. Call Luis with the MN Twins at: 612-659-4030 or visit childrenslighthousemn.org/killebrew for more information about the fund.