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125 Years of Advocating for Children

Gillette patient Peyton Berkland and her dad helped to celebrate Disability Pride Month at Target Field. 

Gillette patient Peyton Berkland and her dad helped to celebrate Disability Pride Month at Target Field. 

Through public events, work with lawmakers, and partnerships with families, Gillette Children’s is helping more children reach their potential and achieve the independence to create their own story.

Gillette has been advocating for children for 125 years and as we celebrated a milestone anniversary, we remained committed to our mission.

Founded in October 1897, we became the first hospital in the U.S. to treat children who have disabilities. Through our clinical expertise, research, and compassion, Gillette collaborates with families and partners to redefine what is possible for children who have brain, bone, and movement conditions.

Gillette works with community partners to provide opportunities for children to participate in downhill and water skiing events. 

Gillette works with community partners to provide opportunities for children to participate in downhill and water skiing events. 

Advocating for our patients in and out of the hospital

Gillette strives to create an inclusive, empowering environment for our patients. We know that when our patients go back to their communities, they often encounter a world that isn’t fully accessible to them.

Our advocacy team works every day to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our patients and families. We do this through advocacy to influence public policy and active community engagement. We work closely with organizations and policymakers on the local, state, national, and international levels.

Peyton Berkland and her family were part of the Disability Pride Month event at Target Field. 

Peyton Berkland and her family were part of the Disability Pride Month event at Target Field. 

Celebrating Disability Pride Month

In July, Gillette celebrated Disability Pride Month. This is part of a national movement to elevate the voices of people living with disabilities and to celebrate their contributions.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed on July 26, 1990. From voting rights to education the ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

On July 12 and 13, Gillette teamed up with the Minnesota Twins to host two Disability Pride Game Days at Target Field in Minneapolis. As part of the celebration special Minnesota Twins Disability Pride baseball caps were given out to the crowd and a portion of the ticket sales helped to support the mission of Gillette.

Steven rides his toy car and receives care at a Gillette Children's clinic in Greater Minnesota. 

Steven receives care at a Gillette Children's clinic in Greater Minnesota. 

Providing access and excellence in health care

Gillette’s commitment to advocacy includes a commitment to provide access and excellence in health care to all children who need our services.

Gillette’s medical director for Greater Minnesota, Andrea Paulson, MD, says, “It’s critical that all children have access to the expert subspeciality care they need to be able to grow, thrive, and achieve all they can.” Paulson, a pediatric rehabilitation medicine physician, leads a team that helps to connect Gillette services to families living in rural locations throughout the region.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 60 million people in the United States live in rural locations. That number represents one in five Americans.

The main campus of Gillette is in St. Paul, Minnesota, and it has clinics throughout the state in locations such as Alexandria, Baxter, Bemidji, Duluth, Mankato, St. Cloud and Willmar. Gillette also provides access to expert providers through virtual care appointments.

The supervisor of Gillette’s Greater Minnesota clinics, Mary Kautto, RN, believes providing solid health care in rural areas is “just the right thing to do.” Kautto is proud of Gillette’s commitment to rural families, “I’ve always said, not everyone with brain, bone and movement conditions needs to live in the Twin Cities!”

A virtual future

In the future, Gillette hopes its expansion of virtual care options will increase the number of patients who can access our care. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Gillette has expanded its virtual care options to help our patients receive the care they need via computer, laptop, iPad, or smart phone.

“We have so many tools now to help families,” Paulson says. “Personally, I remain committed to caring for all patients in Greater Minnesota and will continue to ensure the care at every Gillette location achieves the highest standards.”

Young men learn about the medical field. Gillette was proud to host a day of mentorship and learning and networking during the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit.

Gillette was proud to host a day of mentorship, learning, and networking during the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit.

Nurturing the next generation of health providers

Gillette was proud to partner with the Boys and Girls Club of the Twin Cities and Metro State University to host a day of mentorship, learning, and networking during the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit.

The event brought together students, parents, educators, clinicians, and community leaders to inspire youth to consider careers in healthcare. Students had the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities and network with health professionals.

Black Men in White Coats was originally established in 2013 in response to an Association of American Medical Colleges’ report highlighting the decreasing number of male applicants to medical school. 

Juan Diego and his mother have fun on a swing. The Gillette advocacy team is working with lawmakers to ensure all children, like Juan Diego, have access to inclusive playgrounds. 

The Gillette advocacy team is working with lawmakers to ensure all children, like Juan Diego, have access to inclusive playgrounds. 

An inclusive world

In May 2022, the Gillette advocacy team hosted Gillette Children’s Virtual Day at the Capitol to connect lawmakers with the community who will benefit from their work. Three Gillette patient families shared their stories at the event.

Gillette’s Director of External Affairs, Andrea Stoesz, says the stories shared by families are powerful. “If lawmakers and their staff hear from people with lived experience it is more likely to make a difference because they’re really understanding how their vote or support is going to impact someone’s life,” Stoesz says.

In addition to making sure lawmakers know about the medical needs of our community, the Gillette advocacy team works alongside families to make sure their children are not excluded from simple joys such as playing at a playground. During the 2022 legislative session our team joined a coalition supporting state bonding requests for inclusive playgrounds in Apple Valley (HF 3348/SF 3039) and Fridley (HF 4202/SF 3927). 

Advocacy is part of the Gillette Children’s care model and is a priority as we move forward to serve more children and families.

Please read our recent series in the Star Tribune for more about how Gillette innovates, advocates, and celebrates the children we're honored to have in our care.