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A family affair

The Friswold family, from left: Steve, Marie, Fred, Cyndie (Hays), Barry, and Ben. “Mom and Dad have always been generous donors and volunteers, and that spirit of community giving is contagious,” Barry says. (Photo courtesy of Marie Friswold)

Personal experience with a child’s illness inspires gift to Adopt A Room

As a child, Barry Friswold spent a lot of time in the hospital — but not because he was sick. It was his sister Michelle who had leukemia. Parents Fred and Marie Friswold spent as much time as they could in the hospital with Michelle before she died in 1967 at age 4. But the hospital room was too cramped for the whole family to be together.

“I remember spending many hours in the hospital play room or being shuttled around to various neighbors while our parents were at the hospital,” Barry Friswold says. “I know it was hard on all of us, and I think having a hospital facility that better accommodated our family throughout Michelle’s illness would have been much better.”

At a recent family gathering, Fred and Marie discussed with their now-grown children a new concept for making long hospital stays more comfortable for children and their families through the Adopt A Room program at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. The brainchild of two dads who also lost young daughters to disease, Adopt A Rooms are designed to give ill children more control of their environments while providing more space for their parents and siblings.

All rooms in the new University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital facility, scheduled to open in 2011, will be private and larger-than-standard in size with mini-fridges and microwaves, tables for eating dinner together and doing homework, and sleeper sofas for family members.

Rooms that are “adopted” — with private gifts of $200,000 per room — also will include technologies to make the rooms customizable, with consoles at children’s bedsides that allow them to change the lighting and color of their rooms, a unique layout that keeps medical equipment hidden from view, and many other special features.

Longtime supporters of children’s health efforts at the University, Fred and Marie Friswold felt compelled to adopt one of these rooms and help families today weather tough times together. They emphasize that their gift to the Adopt A Room program — along with another gift of $100,000 to the Michelle Marie Friswold Endowment Fund to advance innovative medical research in the Department of Pediatrics — is on behalf of their entire family, as they all were greatly affected by Michelle’s illness and time in the hospital.

“The healing comes so much better if the environment surrounds you with happiness and comfort and family,” Marie says. “It just makes a difference, whatever age you might be.”

And the Friswold kids — Cyndie, Steve, Barry, and Ben — fully supported their decision.

“Adopting a room is the perfect thing for our family to do together,” Barry says. “A child’s illness or death can have a devastating impact on the health and stability of families, so anything that can be done to support and nourish a family during challenging times like that is so important. Enabling a family to spend more time together is a real gift.”

Hospital leaders hope that all University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital rooms will eventually be adopted so they can be outfitted with the extra elements that make hospital stays better for children and their families.

To learn more about how you or your company can sponsor a room, contact Elizabeth Patty at 612-273-8638 or

To become part of our Partners in Care program, contact Jen Foss at 612-626-5276 or

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