STAR TRIBUNE: Children's hospice campaign begins in Minnesota

As published in the Star Tribune May 19, 2013

By Maurna Lerner


It’s been more than 15 years since a Twin Cities group announced plans to build a hospice and respite-care facility just for sick children. The organizers got as far as buying an old mansion on Summit Avenue in St. Paul, but the project, called Deva House, never panned out.
Now, the Children’s Lighthouse of Minnesota is trying to pick up where the others left off. The goal is the same: to build Minnesota’s first children’s hospice. This weekend, it kicked off a $10 million fundraising campaign along with the Harmon Killebrew Hospice Home for Kids Fund, which was officially launched at the Minnesota Twin’s pregame ceremony on Saturday.
Most hospices are geared toward the elderly. Even today, a hospice for children is a rarity in the United States, says Katie Lindenfelser, 33, a music therapist who founded Children’s Lighthouse. But Lindenfelser says there are thousands of children in Minnesota with fatal or “life limiting” conditions — from cancer to severe chromosomal disorders — who could benefit from a residential hospice just for them. It’s not just a place to face death, she noted; it’s also “a place families would come for short respite breaks.”
Lindenfelser spent two stints working at a children’s hospice in Melbourne, Australia, before she decided to start one here. She founded the nonprofit Children’s Lighthouse in 2009, and has spent the last few years rounding up sponsors and a board of directors and laying the groundwork for the fund- raising. She said she hopes to break ground in 2015 on an eight-bed home, with three family suites, a hydrotherapy pool, and space for music, arts and spiritual care.
Her plan is to raise enough money to cover all costs. “It’s our intent that this will be free to families,” she said. The goal, she said, is to offer “exhausted, grieving families” 15 to 20 days a year of respite care. And when their children need it, a nurturing setting for end-of-life care.