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Giving to medicine and health at the University of Minnesota

Supporting body and spirit

Amplatz Children’s Hospital inspires giving from the heart

By Martha Coventry

Of all the things a teenage boy might choose to do with his bar mitzvah money, giving a portion to medical research might seem low on the list. After all, there are Xboxes and iPods and skateboards to buy. But when Matthew, 13, gave his money to a research program led by John Wagner, M.D., at the University of Minnesota, he was sharing a heartfelt thanks.

“His research saved my life, and I wanted to help him save other lives,” Matthew says.

In gratitude to his doctors, Matthew donated part of his bar mitzvah money to research at the University of Minnesota. [Photo: Alison Langer]

When Matthew was a week shy of his eighth birthday, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. As he was undergoing chemotherapy in Miami, where he lives, his parents, Marcy and Harry, were busy researching treatment options in case he relapsed. Matthew had no family or non-related bone marrow match. His best hope, they learned, was a transplant of publicly donated blood from two umbilical cords.

Wagner, director of the University’s Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program and clinical director of the Stem Cell Institute, had pioneered the world’s first umbilical cord blood transplant for leukemia in 1990. Later, he found that, for older children and adults, co-infusing units from two different donors instead of one led to faster recovery and a markedly lower risk of leukemia relapse.

Aware of Wagner’s successes, Matthew’s parents contacted him to learn more about his work. He got back in touch immediately. “The University was the only place willing to offer Matthew a double cord blood transplant if he needed it,” says Marcy.

Within a year, Matthew’s leukemia had indeed relapsed. He came to University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital in April 2007 and became the first child in the world to receive a double cord blood transplant specifically to reduce the chance that his leukemia would ever recur again.

Today, Matthew has a clean bill of health, and his parents have made their own financial gifts to the University to support medical care and research. “One of the things that we particularly like about the University is that we know our gifts will go to developing therapies, like Matthew received, that will be brought to the bedside as soon as possible,” says his mom.

A cascade of names

Matthew says he’s excited about seeing his name on the digital donor roster in the lobby the next time he visits University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, which opened a new state-of-the-art facility on April 30. Located on the University’s West Bank, the new hospital stands out because of its inviting, colorful, and “green” design — inside and out — and for its many other special features that accelerate healing and make young patients and their families feel at home.

Cascading down the large digital screen like a waterfall are the names of those who have contributed to the Children’s Health Campaign at the University of Minnesota, which aims to raise $175 million for the hospital building project, as well as pediatric research, education, and care. Thanks to Matthew, his parents, and many others like them, more than half of that amount — $98 million — had been raised by mid-May.

The gift of solace

Ted Thompson, M.D., and his wife, Lynette, have given a lasting — and growing — place of healing and comfort to Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Ted and Lynette Thompson hope their gift to fund the hospital's healing garden will provide families with a place of peace and respite. [Photo: Kristie Anderson]

Dr. Thompson has been in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota since 1975. When he comes home after caring for ill or premature newborns, his wife’s garden offers him respite. Lynette, a certified master gardener and former adult intensive care and coronary care unit nurse, knows the consoling power of flowers and plants. The Thompsons wanted to make that solace available to patients and families at Amplatz Children’s Hospital, as well as to the hospital’s physicians, nurses, and other staff.

Near the hospital’s main entrance is the healing garden they have funded and endowed. Paths leading off from the main garden have benches under the trees to create a feeling of peaceful, private space.

“One of the most stressful things in life is to have your child in the hospital,” says Thompson. “We wanted to provide a place where people can go to get away from that stress for a moment, to think and to contemplate.”

Thompson says he is proud to help bring about a dream he and his colleagues have shared for decades: a top-notch facility at the University that gathers the very best of pediatric care, research, and education all under one roof.

To learn about additional recognition opportunities at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital and the many ways to support the Department of Pediatrics, contact the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s Children’s Health Team at 612-626-1931 or, or visit

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

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