Inside Gillette Blog

Remembering Wren: A Family’s Tradition of Giving Back to Gillette

Posted On: 09/14/2015

Every year since 2010, Wren’s family, along with others in their community, celebrate the life of the playful, loving, happy little girl they once knew. “She loved to be outside and go for walks,” says Erica Sinclair. “That’s one of the reasons we hold a walk in her memory.”

Remembering Wren: A Family’s Tradition of Giving Back to GilletteErica’s daughter, Wren, passed away in 2009. When she was 2 years old, Wren sustained a severe head injury at a day care near their home in western Wisconsin. She was airlifted to the Level I Pediatric Trauma Center operated by Regions Hospital and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, but Wren’s family was told that she wouldn’t survive her injuries. “You can’t imagine how horrible it is to have your child fighting for her life,” says Erica, “but everyone at Gillette was very kind.” Wren passed away a few days later with her family by her side.

Although Wren has been gone for six years, her family says they’re still thankful for Gillette’s kindness and efforts to save her life. “The doctors and nurses at Gillette had hearts of gold,” recalls Erica. To honor Wren and show their appreciation for Gillette, the family hosts an annual 5K run/walk. “We think about Wren's Memorial Run/Walk as a holiday,” explains Matt Sprague, Wren’s father. “We start planning in the spring, and for us, it feels like we are planning a huge celebration in memory of Wren.”

They donate part of the proceeds to Gillette’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and use some of the proceeds to fund a scholarship for a high school student going into the medical field. “People always ask us why we don’t give the money to a ‘local’ hospital,” says Matt. “When your child has a serious injury, Gillette is the best ‘local’ hospital. Gillette doesn’t just serve St. Paul, it serves our entire region.”

Now in its fifth year, the Wren Sprague Memorial Run/Walk is proud to have donated $32,000 to Gillette’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Wren’s family recently returned to Gillette to present a $9,000 check from the 2015 run/walk, bringing that total up to $41,000 (pictured right). “To us, the annual donation represents our love for Wren,” explains Erica. “It’s a way for us to reach out to families in similar situations. Our hope is that we help children recover and return home with their families.”

Wren’s family says they want to keep her run/walk going and hope it will become bigger and more successful each year. “Six years later, people still talk about Wren,” says Erica. “We don't want that to stop. We want people to remember Wren.”

For more information, visit the Wren Sprague Memorial & Scholarship Fund.

Building a Community of Givers

Posted On: 02/13/2015

Last November, at Frattallone’s Ace Hardware in Arden Hills, Minnesota, something special happened. A customer walked in and asked if he could write a check to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. The man knew that Ace supported Gillette because he’d gotten an email from the store’s co-owner, Mike Frattallone (pictured left).

Frattallone had penned an email to his entire address book of customers, urging them to give to Gillette on Give to the Max Day. He let them know that he’d match each donation, dollar for dollar. Frattallone’s Ace Hardware has a long history of supporting Gillette through its Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals partnership.

Frattallone has a personal reason for raising money for Gillette. His daughter had been evaluated at Gillette because of a foot curvature. The experience of being an anxious father—and the memory of the excellent care Gillette provided—has stayed with him.

“We have almost 700 employees,” says Frattallone. “Many of them have shared personal stories about nephews and nieces and family members who are patients at Gillette. You don’t have to go far to find someone who has been touched by this hospital.”

When you ask people to give, Frattallone believes, the stories that you get back are inspiring.

Like the story of the Ace employees who volunteered to give Gillette a day of hourly wages so they could demonstrate for customers that they, too, were committed to giving.

Or the story of the customer who, when he found out that the store’s fundraising goal for the day was $100, wrote a check to Gillette for $100 right there at the register. “All of a sudden, we had a new goal for the day—$200—and a new story to tell our other customers when it came time to ask for their donations,” Frattalone says.

He isn’t surprised by the generosity. “People come to Ace Hardware because of the customer service and expertise,” he says. “They like the engagement. They welcome community involvement, and they’re incredibly giving.”

Double a Donation on Give to the Max Day

Posted On: 11/05/2014

Thursday, Nov. 13, is Give to the Max Day, a 24-hour online fundraising event hosted by This year Gillette will be sharing our “top-10 reasons to give to Gillette” throughout the week of Nov. 13 on social media, but you can get an exclusive sneak peek here! Hint: Help us make a splash!

Mike Frattallone of Frattallone's Ace Hardware Stores and Garden Centers has offered to match your donations dollar-for-dollar up to $30,000! Another generous donor has increased the match by offering an additional $20,000. If we can raise $50,000 on Nov. 13, we can put $100,000 to work for the kids at Gillette. Please help us meet our goal!

You can go to Gillette’s GiveMN page now to schedule your gift. Just follow that link to be taken to our page and begin filling out the donate form – it’s that easy! Your credit card won’t be charged until Nov. 13 so that your donation can be matched.

Let others know that you support Gillette on Give to the Max Day by changing your Facebook cover picture to one provided here. Simply click the image, save it on your computer and upload it onto your Facebook page. Whether you donate, tweet or post, your support will help make this year’s Give to the Max Day a successful one for the patients at Gillette.

Minnesota Monthly highlights Come Fly With Me gala

Posted On: 06/25/2014

Volunteer Perspective- An Interview with Taylor Piepenhagen

Posted On: 05/27/2014

Taylor Piepenhagen (left), pictured with mom Kristina, while dropping off donations.

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself? I am an honor roll student in my junior year of high school. I am an editor of the yearbook and I work at Walgreen's.

Q: What made you want to volunteer at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare? I was sitting in the car last summer going to the mall with my mom. She was talking, but I was in my own world!  I was thinking about how I want to make a difference. I feel like people get so caught up in life stressors that they don't have perspective outside of their immediate life.

Q: How did you turn that revelation into action? I started a business with the help of my mom called Pretty in Pink Tutus and More. For every item sold including tutus, hair accessories, blankets, and burb rags, I decided I would donate two items. This is something close to my heart. I am putting my own money into this in order to put a smile on children’s and families’ faces. I want them to know people care about them.

Q: How did you select Gillette as your donation spot? When it came closer to donation time, I didn't really have to research what hospital I wanted! Gillette instantly came to mind. Plus it’s a local hospital, and that was really important to me.

Q: What was the donation experience like for you? Life changing- I can’t wait to go back with even more things!

Do you want to get involved at Gillette? Learn how by clicking here.



Wanted: Volunteers Who Love to Laugh

Posted On: 03/12/2014

This fall, Gillette will host our third annual Laugh Out Loud Twin Cities (LOLTC) comedy event, benefiting Gillette. Last year, headliner Howie Mandel entertained more than 500 people, and the evening’s activities raised more than $250,000!

We are recruiting committee members to volunteer their time and talents to plan and execute this year’s event, which will take place Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

What does it mean to serve on this committee? Once a month, you’ll meet with a group of passionate and committed individuals who want to help make LOLTC fun for everyone who attends. From planning fundraising activities like the “mystery box” or “wine toss,” to decorating the venue for the event, there are lots of ways we can use your help.

We ask that committee members be available for the majority of monthly meetings (twice each month as the event date comes closer) and be available to volunteer at and attend the event on Sept. 27.

For more information about this special volunteer opportunity, please contact Jenny Floria at 651-229-1766 or at  You can also go to and provide us with your contact information. Someone will get in touch with you.

Hot cocoa, comics, and compassion from a 6-year old that gave back!

Posted On: 01/13/2014

Penelope Deignan is a charming and funny 6-year-old whose mom, Kelly, describes as a swimmer and an artist. To those who don’t know her, Penelope an average first grader who has a scar on the front of her neck. To some, a scar may be something one tries to cover up or hide, but to Penelope, the scar is a part of her story.

Penelope’s Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare experience began when she was successfully treated at Gillette as an infant because of hip dysplasia. She experienced no further health issues until, while at cheerleading camp last August, Penelope began having neck pain and returned to Gillette for treatment. She was soon diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), a rare condition that occurs when the body accumulates too many immature Langerhans cells, a type of white blood cell that normally helps the body fight infection.  When too many of these blood cells build up and accumulate, they can form tumors or damage internal organs.  In Penelope’s case, LCH had caused a tumor in the C5 vertebrae of her spinal column—causing pain in her neck.

 After the diagnosis, the plan was to treat the tumor with chemotherapy. But just before the treatment was to begin, the tumor unexpectedly collapsed. Penelope spent a week in Gillette’s orthopedic unit while doctors managed her pain. During this time, her tumor collapsed once again, causing additional complications. That’s when pediatric neurosurgeon Patrick Graupman, M.D., performed a spinal fusion surgery in September, 2013 to prevent permanent damage to her spinal column.

Despite everything Penelope went through, she wasted no time springing back into action. Just three months after her surgery, today Penelope is back in the pool and back in school.  However, Gillette was never far from Penelope’s mind after her stay ended.  “She loved her experience at Gillette,” Kelly explains.  “She wanted to go back after she came home from the hospital! It was a really big experience for her--but a great one.”

Soon after Penelope came home from the hospital, she began drawing comics about animals going to Gillette for care. It didn’t take long until Penelope’s friends started asking for her comics. Instead of giving them away, Penelope decided to have a hot cocoa stand outside of their house, selling hot cocoa and comics to raise money for Gillette. So one chilly day, she bundled up, set up her stand and, in total, and raised $15! She donated every penny to Gillette.

“I’ve come to appreciate the caring staff and how they helped Penelope feel really good about herself,” says Kelly. “They always gave her confidence that she’d get better.” Kelly adds, “I think it says a lot that Penelope wants to go back to Gillette and become a surgeon like Dr. Graupman.” Until Penelope can reach her goal of being a surgeon, she’s planning even more hot cocoa and comic sales to continue giving back.  

Radio Spot Highlights Gillette Tree

Posted On: 01/07/2014

Listen to KS95 (94.5 FM) this week, and you’ll hear a familiar name: Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.  It’s all thanks to the local radio station, which generously granted us a free 60-second radio spot. Not only does the spot highlight the role of Gillette’s specialty-care expertise in moving our patients and families forward, it also calls attention to our illuminated Gillette Tree—a symbol of the expertise of our staff and generosity of our donors.  The spot closes by encouraging listeners to support Gillette with a donation. Listen to the spot here!


Charitable Giving Segment on WCCO-AM’s “Your Money”

Posted On: 12/18/2013

Giving back and being charitable were the topics during the December 8th “Your Money” radio show on WCCO-AM sponsored by the Wealth Enhancement Group. As a thank you to their loyal listeners, the Wealth Enhancement Group is offering a free second opinion on financial plans for retirement. For every person who schedules an in-person or a telephone review, the Wealth Enhancement Group is donating $100 to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.

Guests on the program included Wendy Paulson, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, who provided an overview about Gillette and how donations benefit Gillette patients and Ryan McKeown, Senior Vice President, Financial Advisor from the Wealth Enhancement Group, who answered listener’s charitable giving questions.

The “Your Money” radio show airs on Sunday mornings. The program features Bruce Helmer and Peg Webb from the Wealth Enhancement Group who bring their unique perspectives and insights on a broad range of financial topics, from investments to estate planning.

Pictured left to right: Denny Long, WCCO-AM; Bruce Helmer and Peg Webb, Wealth Enhancement Group; Wendy Paulson, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare; Ryan McKeown, Wealth Enhancement Group.


TV Coverage Captures Tree Lighting

Posted On: 11/21/2013

On Monday evening, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare illuminated a tree with 10,000 lights visible for miles in downtown St. Paul. The tree is a symbol of the hope our patients and families have, the expertise of our staff, and the generosity of our donors. The event attracted coverage from local TV stations KARE 11, WCCO and FOX 9. You can also donate and help us light Gillette's tree. 

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