Tag Archives: terminal illness

Spare Key

I am very grateful that my kids are healthy…yes they do have ear infections, tummy aches, and fevers, but those are nothing compared to what other families go through. I have written about organizations founded after the death of a child, such as Ella’s Halo and  Isaac’s Foundation.  Today’s organization is another example of a family turning a loss into something great.

Spare Key is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides assistance to Minnesota homeowners with critically ill or seriously injured children by making a mortgage payment on the family’s behalf. 

In 1997, Patsy and Robb Keech founded Spare Key after the death of their 2 ½ year old son, Derian.  Born with a genetic birth defect, Derian endured many hospitalizations – six major surgeries and five open-heart surgeries in his short life.  Through all this, Patsy and Robb Keech struggled with juggling time away from their jobs and the emotional strain of caring for a very ill child.   The choice to go to work to avoid losing their home or leaving their critically ill son was tormenting. In the end, they chose their son.  Friends and family members assisted them with expenses during this time and the idea for this organization was born.

Spare Key is located in Bloomington, however they serve families throughout the state of Minnesota.  Over the past fourteen years, they have been able to assist nearly 1,200 Minnesota families, in almost every county across the state.  They have paid out over $1.1 million.

The funds used to help families are raised through foundation, individual, community, and corporate giving.  All donations are tax deductible and are recognized in a personal letter.  They also hold two major events each year to raise additional funds.  The Spare Key Golf Benefit is scheduled for September 20, 201l and a winter semi-formal event called “The Groove” was just held in February.

Spare Key is currently striving to grow their organization and budget in order to serve even more Minnesota families struggling to care for their critically ill or injured children.  Many groups and businesses have been inspired to hold fundraising events for Spare Key. 

Sharing the Spare Key story also helps by making more people aware of their services and finding new donors.  Invite Spare Key to share its history, mission and goals with your co-workers, church, civic group, or informal group of friends. According to Spare Key Executive Director, Anne Bomstad Miller, “Spare Key welcomes the opportunity to share our story, and can tailor our presentation to any length.”

Spare Key pays out a maximum of $1,200 per family served.  Families can learn about the program guidelines and apply for the program on the Spare Key website.  Not all recipients have terminally ill children but all greatly appreciate the assistance.  Some examples include the parents of a car accident victim, parents of childhood cancer patients, and parents of a child with a heart defect.  One recipient writes, “Without Spare Key, I don’t think I would be writing you this note from my kitchen table in the house in which we still live.”

How can you help?

  • Make a tax deductible donation.  Spare Key offers many opportunities to give such as monthly giving, planned gifts and more on their website.
  • Hold a fundraiser for Spare Key – maybe a bake sale, silent auction, garage sale, change drive, or a jeans day!
  • You can also support Spare Key through a workplace giving program such as United Way.  Simply note their tax id number (41-1888767) on enrollment forms.
  • Encourage your company to become a sponsor for one of the two annual Spare Key fundraising events.  Recognition and other benefits are provided to all sponsors.  For more information, please contact Anne Bomstad Miller at or by phone at (952) 406-8872.
  • Spread the word about Spare Key by sharing this post.

Learn more about Spare Key on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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Jason O’Neill

The  Blogunteer recently profiled the Kids Are Heroes organization and has profiled many of their heroes in the past.  Today we profile another hero, Jason O’Neill, a young entrepreneur with a giving spirit!

When Jason was only nine years old, he wanted make a product to sell at a craft fair.  He wanted a product that could make homework more fun.  The idea of the Pencil Bug was born.  With the help of his parents, Jason made his first Pencil Bug.  The bugs caught on very quickly he was soon busy taking orders and making new bugs on a regular basis.  Since then, Jason has also added t-shirts, laminated bookmarks, and greeting cards to his product line up.

But, this isn’t the real reason that the Blogunteer has chosen to profile Jason.  Since he started his business in 2005, he has been making donations to help other kids.  The first charity he selected was the HUGS Foster Family Agency where he lives.  Since 2008, Jason has been donating to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, California.  Each quarter he makes a unique donation for the kids in the hospital, including activity bags, toys, board games, crayons, coloring books, books, teddy bears, puzzles, and more!

This past weekend, Jason delivered more bears to the Rady Children’s Hospital!  For a video, please check out Jason’s website.

When asked about why he is involved with the Children’s Hospital, Jason says, “Most people think that I was probably in the hospital for one reason or another and that’s why I chose them.  The truth is, I have always been healthy, never had a broken bone and have never been in the hospital.  But I know there are some kids who aren’t as fortunate and can’t help that they have illnesses or injuries so I thought I could do my part and buy toys, games, books, and other activities for the kids that might help their stay in the hospital not so bad.”

Jason describes the teddy bear collection he started in 2009 as his most rewarding volunteer experience.  “My goal was 250 bears.  By the beginning of November, I had raised enough money (including my own from my Pencil Bugs business) to buy 400 teddy bears.  I thought that was a lot and was really happy.  Then the week of Thanksgiving, I was interviewed on the NBC news station in San Diego.  The very next day, my story hit MSN’s home page and donations started pouring in from all over the world.  Within a week or so, I had raised over $5,000 which allowed me to buy 1800 teddy bears — just a few more than my original goal.  We tied a donation tag on EACH bear with the person’s name who donated money.  It was a lot of work but definitely worth it.”

You can help Jason with his cause by purchasing Pencil Bugs products or his book, “Bitten By the Business Bug” from his website,  You can also follow Jason’s blog or connect with him on Twitter or Facebook to keep up to date with his fundraisers and projects.

Jason not only makes his own donations, he also encourages others to give.  “I think donating is just a part of life. If you can help someone else in some way, then people should.  A lot of people think you need to give a lot in order for it to count so if they can’t, they don’t do anything. I always remind people that even the smallest effort can make a huge difference in someone else’s life and a lot of times, you may not even know how you affect them but it still counts.”

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Posted by on December 21, 2010 in Volunteer Profile


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Friend for Life

Cancer can be scary!  You are not only faced with a life altering diagnosis, but you also need to make treatment decisions, deal with side effects, and much more! 

In 1988, an organization named Friend for Life was born to help persons recently diagnosed with cancer and their loved ones navigate the path through diagnosis, treatment and recovery by pairing them with a trained survivor of a similar experience so they can face cancer with someone who’s been there. 

Friend for Life is located in Baptist Hospital East’s Cancer Resource Center in Louisville, Kentucky.  It began when two cancer survivors who were also friends reflected on how good it was to have the other to talk to even though their diagnosis was different.  With the help of an influential nurse and the passion of these two men, Friend for Life started with just a handful of survivors in 1988.  Now the organization has over 200 survivors representing survival of over 40 different kinds of cancer.

Friend for Life is the only one-on-one network of survivors of all types of cancer in Kentucky and southern Indiana.  There is no cost for their support.  People are matched based on their cancer type, treatment, age, gender, and any other pertinent factors that would help make the most appropriate match.  If there isn’t an exact match available within their organization, they do our best to find a match with other similar organizations.  Even though the organization is based in Kentucky, they provide support to anyone, anywhere in the world, as long as they have access to a phone or the Internet.

How can you help?  Friend for Life volunteers are either cancer survivors or caregivers for someone close to them who had cancer.  Volunteers speak with persons that are newly diagnosed mostly over the phone to help calm their fears.  All volunteers are provided training by healthcare professionals.

Learn more about Friend for Life at their website,, following them on Twitter or on Facebook.

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Posted by on December 16, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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Wish Upon a Wedding

Planning a wedding can be stressful!  What colors should I choose, what about centerpieces, can we afford all this?  Well, at least most of us don’t need to worry about living to see our wedding day! 

Wish Upon a Wedding (WUW) is the world’s first nonprofit organization, dedicated to providing weddings for individuals facing a life-threatening illness, regardless of sexual orientation.  WUW also celebrates the courage, determination and spirit of these couples by granting their dream wedding wishes.  According to Liz Guthrie, WUW Founder, “Our hope is that chosen recipients can inspire other couples facing similar situations to find hope and strength.”

There are currently 16 chapters around the United States available to grant wishes.  Each chapter maintains a database of “Wish Granters,” based on 20 different wedding vendor categories.  When a Wish is received in that area, the Volunteer Coordinators will call upon their Wish Granters to donate their professional goods and services, enabling us to provide the Wish Recipient’s dream weddings. The organization will provide everything from the gown to the cake, the flowers to the venue, and the music to the décor. The couple does not have to do anything but enjoy the special day surrounded by those who matter most to them. 

WUW believes that health issues shouldn’t get in the way of someone’s dream to marry their best friend.   Organization Founder, Liz Guthrie, came up with the idea to grant weddings to terminally ill individuals, while she was producing a nationwide wedding giveaway contest. The San Francisco Dream Wedding Giveaway was a community project, where over 40 bay area wedding and hospitality vendors came together to donate a high-end wedding to a deserving couple.  Guthrie felt it was sad that only ONE couple would benefit from the generosity of so many businesses in the wedding industry. She said getting these vendors to donate was really easy, once they knew it was for a good cause. 

Along with the eagerness of the wedding industry to give back, Guthrie noticed several couples entering the contest had been affected by terminal illness.  By starting a nonprofit organization with the wedding industry in mind, she was able to merge these two concepts.  The wedding industry wanted to give back, and there were people in need of our help. Wish Upon a Wedding was born.

You can see a selection of granted and upcoming wishes on the organization’s website. 

The guidelines for receiving a wish are simple.  Applicants must be at least 18 years, legal US Citizens, unmarried,  and at least one individual has been diagnosed with less than three years to live. To receive an application, email or call 877-305-9474.

So, how can you help?

  • If you are in the wedding industry, please visit the Chapter Locations page and fill out a short online form to become a Wish Granter.
  • Cash donations are also needed to cover the cost of bringing in family members for the event, as well as paying for their hotel accommodations.  Sometimes additional funds are needed to cover a portion of a wish.
  • You can attend an event hosted by one of the chapters.  These include launch parties and fundraisers.  For a list of upcoming events visit the website.
  • If you are about to get married, Wish Upon a Wedding accepts donations in lieu of gifts or favors.  See their website for details. 
  • WUW also accepts donations of new and unused products, Airline Miles, & Hotel Room Nights. For a complete list of how you can help please visit the HOW TO HELP section of the website.
  • You can also spread the word about the Wish Upon a Wedding organization to your friends via Facebook and Twitter
  • Or, you could even start a new chapter of Wish Upon a Wedding near you!  See their website for more details! 

To learn more about Wish Upon A Wedding, please visit their website, become a fan on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.


Posted by on December 14, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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