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A special gift

Ben, Vivian, and Bob Calmenson in 2008 (Photo: Tim Rummelhoff)

Family creates Ben & Bob’s Room to honor loved ones and make the hospital more like home for young patients

Bob Calmenson lived decades longer than doctors predicted. But when he died at 60 in 2009, his life seemed far too short to family and friends. “He left us too soon,” say his sisters, Margie Howell and Janet Lesgold.

Yet the spirit of Bob, and his father, Ben, who died at age 90 just 13 days before Bob died, will live forever in Ben & Bob’s Room, one of the patient rooms designed to feel more like home under the Adopt A Room program at the new University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

Though Ben lived to age 90, it was Bob who truly beat the odds. He was born with a congenital heart defect and not expected to make it past age 20. However, surgery as an adolescent at the University’s former Variety Club Heart Hospital helped extend his life.

In gratitude, Ben and his wife, Vivian, established the Robert L. Calmenson Pediatric Cardiology Research Fund when Bob turned 50. Now members of the entire Calmenson family have given $200,000 to create Ben & Bob’s Room. It and other privately funded “adopted rooms” promise to provide a vastly different experience than Bob and his family had when he was hospitalized.

Vivian remembers small, shared rooms and restricted visiting hours. Family members were not allowed to stay overnight. The situation left a lot to be desired. And that’s why the Adopt A Room program appealed so much to the Calmensons.

“This is a way of paying it forward,” says Laurie Calmenson, Bob’s widow.

Adopted rooms will be private and large, with mini-fridges, microwaves, tables for eating together and doing homework, and sleeper sofas. These rooms also will feature technology that allows children to control the lighting, TV, inter-room communications, and video conferencing that keeps them connected to school, family, and friends.

Both men surely would approve of Ben & Bob’s Room, says Lesgold. “If they’re looking down on us, they would be very pleased.”

To learn more about how you or your company can sponsor an Adopt A Room, contact Lauren Moore at 612-626-7946 or l.moore@ mmf.umn.edu.

To become part of our Partners in Care program, contact Jen Foss at 612-626-5276 or j.foss@mmf.umn.edu.

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