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Impact of Giving Hearts Day continues to grow: Eight local nonprofits participating in Feb. 8 online fundraiser

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Though this Thursday, Feb. 8 is already shaping up to be a "red letter day" in Detroit Lakes, with the evening's Ice Palace Grand Lighting Ceremony set to bring in excited onlookers and news media from around the region, eight local nonprofits are hoping to make the day memorable for an entirely different reason.

That's because this coming Thursday is also the date set for Giving Hearts Day, a 24-hour online fundraising event that has raised over $41 million for charities throughout North Dakota and Minnesota since its inception in 2008.

Hosted by the Fargo-based Dakota Medical Foundation and Impact Institute, the one-day-only event offers an opportunity for individual and group charity contributions of $10 or more to be matched, dollar for dollar, by DMF and other generous donors. In total, more than 400 nonprofits and charitable funds have signed up to participate in the 2018 event.

This year, the list of local participants has grown significantly, with the Friends of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, American Cancer Society/Becker County Relay for Life, Essentia Health St. Mary's Foundation, Lakes Crisis & Resource Center, Compassion House/Refuge Christian Outreach, Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics and Boys & Girls Clubs of Detroit Lakes and Perham all signed up for the Feb. 8 event.

Though several of the local organizations have formed a collaborative to help raise awareness and contributions for the annual fundraiser, each has a unique goal and purpose for the funds raised, as outlined below.

Lakes Crisis & Resource Center

A participant in GHD since its inception, Detroit Lakes-based LCRC is raising funds to support and sustain its children's services programming and Lakes Area Kinship, an LCRC-sponsored mentoring program for youth between the ages of 5-16. Matching funds of up to $14,600 will be provided by DMF and other donors.

"We're hoping to raise a total of $25,000 this year," says Lisa Lipari, the LCRC's outreach and development coordinator.

Though the funds will go to support all of the children's services programming at LCRC, "this year we're focusing on Kinship, to help facilitate matching mentors to mentees," she added.

Children's services at LCRC also include children's support groups in schools throughout Becker County, at the elementary, middle and high school level. The groups offer support in a variety of areas, "from healthy relationships to managing emotions and dating violence," says LCRC's executive director, Anna Sellin.

In addition, LCRC's staff also works to with kids who come with their parents to stay in the Center's adjacent emergency shelter, Mary's Place. "When they come here, they're often very scared, insecure, hesitant to open up to outsiders," Sellin added. "Our advocates work with them one-on-one in an effort to meet their needs, whether they be emotional, behavioral or developmental."

Boys & Girls Clubs of Detroit Lakes & Perham

For the Boys & Girls Clubs of Detroit Lakes and Perham, a donation on Giving Hearts Day will will help the Detroit Lakes club with "general operating expenses for after school and summer programming," says Sue Trnka, who serves as resource development director for both clubs.

Meanwhile, contributions for the Perham club will be used to purchase a newer, larger van to help transport kids to and from the club "and to update technology for its members," she added.

"Our overall goal for Giving Hearts Day this year is to meet our match of $17,000," she added.

Between the two clubs, membership has grown to about 800 kids, and the funds raised will be used to support them with "exceptional mentors, fun activities, healthy meals and snacks, academic support, and engaging programs."

Health Resources Center

A first-year participant in Giving Hearts Day, Health Resources Center in Detroit Lakes will use a local match of $5,000 to leverage its goal of about $10,000, says HRC's Britton Ramsey.

"We'd like to raise the full match," she said. "We will be using the funds to provide free pregnancy testing and ultrasound testing , parenting and life coaching classes, expanding our education curriculum, and purchasing items for our boutique."

Ramsey explained that HRC clients earn points toward purchasing boutique items like "diapers, clothing and toiletries" by participating in their classes.

"This is our first year with GHD, so we don't know what to expect, but it's been great to work in collaboration with all these other nonprofits," she added.

Essentia Health St. Mary's Foundation

It's been six years since the Essentia Health St. Mary's Foundation began participating in Giving Hearts Day, and it's been a great way to raise money for enhancing its services throughout the Detroit Lakes campus, according to EHSM Foundation Chair Jim Sinclair.

"This year, all the money raised will go toward our helipad project," he added, noting that they still have about $180,000 left to raise toward the $500,000-$600,000 project, which will install a raised helipad near the hospital's emergency department.

"We're hoping to break ground as soon as it's feasible this spring," he said, noting that the plan is to wrap up fundraising for the project "by May or June."

"We'd like to get the project completed by August at the latest," Sinclair said, adding, "it will begin saving lives the day it's finished."

Friends of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

Sinclair, who also chairs the board of the Friends of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, said he's wearing two hats for GHD this year.

A four-year participant in GHD, the Friends of Tamarac NWR are looking to raise funds for their environmental education programs, which are housed in the Tamarac Discovery Center (across the parking lot from the Visitor Center).

"The Discovery Center is now built and paid for," said Sinclair, "but participation is continuing to grow. This year we're looking to add a part-time staff person to help coordinate our volunteers and manage the gift shop and office (at the Visitor Center).

"Right now we're working with six different school districts, and there are always more that want to come, but we don't have the capacity," he added, explaining that for each class that's added to the schedule at Tamarac, they need about 5-6 volunteers to assist the instructor, as the bulk of the classes are held outdoors, where closer supervision is necessary.

Each class comes to Tamarac three times a year, in fall, winter and spring, to experience the full range of seasons, Sinclair said — "and we have a lot of other educational opportunities in the summer, for both kids and adults."

"We've secured a total of $6,000 in match funds from our donors this year," he said. "If we could reach $12,000 (including the match), that would be great. Last year we raised around $9,000 (with a $4,600 match). We can do a lot with a relatively small amount of money. What we need even more than money, however, are volunteers. If someone can't give money this year, they could give a couple of hours to come out to the Refuge and work with these kids to help teach them about the outdoors and everything that Tamarac has to offer. That would be a tremendous gift to us."

Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics

Participating in GHD for the third consecutive year, Minnesota Flyers Gymnastics is raising funds in support of its "Fly Time" program, which provides fitness training and new experiences in movement for children with special needs.

"We are serving over 240 kids in the program right now," said MFG director Kari Stattelman, noting that schools in Detroit Lakes, Frazee, Lake Park-Audubon and White Earth's Circle of Life Academy all send students to the Flyers gym, and Fly Time classes are now held four days a week, for kids from preschool through high school age.

"Donors will have an opportunity for a 2-to-1 match, up to the first $10,000," Stattelman added, with matching funds will be provided by local donors and Dakota Medical Foundation..

Donations of any amount are welcome, Stattelman said, and all gifts of over $10 are eligible for the matching funds.

"That makes it very realistic for anyone to give," she added.

Compassion House

For the second year in a row, The Refuge Christian Outreach Center of Detroit Lakes is looking to raise funds for its Compassion House — a residential, Christian-based chemical dependency treatment program for men, says the program's director, Melissa Crow.

"We're hoping to raise $8,000 this year," she said, noting that the goal is to purchase a new, 12-passenger van to help transport the Compassion House's 15 residential clients to and from medical, support group, counseling and legal appointments, as well as other non-work activities such as trips to the community center to work out, or to the thrift store for clothing and other needs.

"Our existing transportation (which consists of a couple of well-used, aging vans which have to be supplemented regularly by using staff members' personal vehicles) is pretty unreliable, and doesn't really meet the needs of our clients very well," she added.

American Cancer Society/Relay for Life

The American Cancer Society is hoping to raise about $20,000 — including a $10,000 local match — for its annual Becker County Relay for Life, says ACS regional community development manager Lori Bachmann, who coordinates the local event.

"Relay for Life supports research advocacy, education and services to cancer patients in this area," she added, noting that this year's Relay is set to take place on Thursday, June 7 at the Detroit Lakes Pavilion.

How to contribute

The theme for this year's Giving Hearts Day is "Count Me," with a goal of inspiring over 50,000 individual and group donors to contribute through its website,, during the 24-hour event.

"The idea is that, 'Together, we can become the most generous region oni the planet," said Lipari, pointing to a printed logo on her t-shirt that expresses this goal. "Last year, we had over 22,000 donors (regionally), and the goal this year is to more than double that."

"We're hosting a special event at Hub 41 from 2-4 p.m. on Thursday," said Stattelman. "We'll be doing a live radio broadcast, and serving free hot chocolate and cookies, and there will be a selfie booth set up."

"Central Market also helped out all of us tremendously this year, by hosting a 'GHD Roundup' from Jan. 1 through Feb. 8 and calling attention to our cause," Trnka added.

"There's been a lot of community support," Stattelman said, noting that organizations within the GHD collaborative also support and cheer each other on toward reaching their goals.

"A lot of people give to more than one organization on Giving Hearts Day, so it's not really a competition," Trnka said.

"Last year, with just four organizations participating (in the local collaborative), we raised over 93,000," she added, noting that with eight local organizations on the GHD participation list for 2018, "This will be a really big year for Detroit Lakes."

To support any of these local nonprofits and have your online donation matched, go to or between 12 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. this Thursday — or for those who prefer not to contribute online, donors can go to Hub 41 or one of the participating organizations on Thursday and make a donation by check, cash or credit card.

"But if you're writing a check, it has to be dated Feb. 8," Trnka cautioned.

Each participating donor on Thursday will also be eligible to win one of two $10,000 cash awards from DMF for their favorite charity. More information on Giving Hearts Day is available online at

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454