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.
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.
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.”