In 1959, Marion Burkhardt was a busy farm wife raising three young children with her husband, Warren (Buddy) Burkhardt in Cedar Township, a tiny community in southern Minnesota. Life changed forever when the Burkhardts’ fourth child, Jim, was born two months prematurely. As a result of his early birth, Jim developed cerebral palsy and cognitive delays.   

The Burkhardt family: Marion, Buddy and their children.

The Burkhardt family: Marion, Buddy and their children. 

Six-Hour Round Trips

Jim became a regular patient at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare—then located on Lake Phalen in St. Paul, Minnesota—at age 5. He spent several summers there recovering from surgeries.

Jim’s older sister, Jean Burkhardt, recounts her parents’ frequent trips to visit Jim. “They would drive three hours each way every weekend,” she explains. “Because of our farm animals and chores, they couldn’t be gone overnight.”

Marion Burkhardt’s love for her son drove her to become a “fierce advocate,” as her family describes. Frustrated by the lack of local resources for medically complex children like Jim, Burkhardt reached out to lawmakers stressing the need for better services, education and medical care in rural Minnesota.

Jim Burkhardt, a longtime Gillette patient, is pictured with his nieces and nephews.

Jim Burkhardt, a longtime Gillette patient, with his nieces and nephews.

Gift Will Ease Burden of Travel

Jim continued to receive care at Gillette in adulthood. He also received the signature purple power wheelchair that helped him remain an active member of his community. So when the time came, five years ago, for Marion Burkhardt to select a beneficiary for her longstanding life insurance policy, Gillette seemed a natural choice.

Sadly, Marion Burkhardt passed away in November 2016. Jim passed away only three months later in February 2017. Jim’s siblings, nieces and nephews designated their mother and grandmother’s planned gift to the Gillette Family Access Fund—a fund that exists to ease the burden and expense of travel to St. Paul for families in greater Minnesota.

“This fund would have made my parents’ lives easier in the 1960s,” says Jean Burkhardt. “Now, it can lighten the load for today’s Gillette families. We did this to honor mom and Jim.”

Call 651-229-1726 or visit our website to learn about making a planned gift to Gillette. Read more stories of CAN in our 2016 Annual Report

Jim Burkhardt continued coming to Gillette into adulthood.

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