Featured Families

This page is dedicated to Featured Families.  Each year we highlight 2-3 loved ones and give the families an outlet to share some stories, pictures and special memories.  This event was created out of our extreme love for Jonathon, but it is important to us that it is an event that honors all of our wonderful children who were taken from us too soon and also honor those who are dealing with mental health issues and are brave enough to share their story.

Jackson Roeder

February 1, 1992 – February 18, 2017

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Jackson Roeder was a talented and passionate individual, despite the challenges he faced. My brother was treasured and admired by many throughout his time here on earth. Jackson’s personality and energy were always drawing others in and he would never pass by unnoticed, for he was 6 ft 6 in. Jackson touched lives in several different ways. First of all, he was a mentor to others. His classmates in the NDSU architecture program voted him to receive the peer mentor award for his class because of how willing he was to help and teach his peers. He loved architecture and was pursuing his passion by getting his master’s degree, but he was willing to put competition aside in order to help his peers whenever he could. Jackson’s creativity was not only limited to architecture. He spent time doing art at the end of high school and in college. Jackson had a mind unlike any other. He was constantly exploring how the world worked and wanting to educate himself. Google was his “go-to” and you could always have a long in-depth conversation with Jackson about some of the inner workings of humanity. Jackson was one of the smartest people I knew. When he put his mind to a task, he would dive in head first and usually wound up with a masterpiece.

Jackson’s personality was attractive to others for his helpfulness, creativity, and intelligence, but also because he was so selfless and conscientious of others. At Jackson’s wake, our family was told stories of how he made a difference and stood up for others in their time of need. He was someone people would call for help as he would be sure to do the right thing. It always seemed like everyone wanted to be his friend and know what his next adventure would be.

Jackson was full of adventure. Several years ago for a family birthday in Minneapolis, Jackson asked if he could meet everyone at the celebration. He let it be known that day that he was biking from St. Cloud, that is pedal biking. He GPS’d the back roads and took pictures of city population signs along the way. He even had to call to tell our family that he was going to be late because he couldn’t find the population sign for Minneapolis. His endurance was astounding. He completed 4 marathons, and often did so with very little training.

Jackson and I enjoyed getting Sushi every week at our favorite spot in Fargo, ND. I was blessed to have followed him to his college town and be able to spend time with him reminiscing about our childhood, talking about our family, and exchanging life updates and advice. Jackson and I enjoyed our parents coming to visit and taking us out too. We knew we had an awesome family. The memories of family vacations, holidays, and casual get-togethers with Jackson are now the most cherished pieces of our lives.

The pain of losing someone you love is perhaps the worst feeling of the human experience. There were days when tears would flow from my eyes every time I blinked and the grief seemed truly unbearable. I would not wish the emotional pain I have felt on any other person in the world. However, the pain of mental illness is not to be overshadowed. Jackson struggled with mental health related issues for the majority of his life.

The challenge in our society is that mental health is not accepted like other medical conditions. My parents had been with Jackson on the journey of getting him help throughout his life, navigating multiple setbacks along the way. They elicited help from educators, counselors, and health care professionals from St. Cloud, the Twin Cities, and Fargo. Jackson’s last setback was in early 2015 and he had been doing very well without any indication of a problem. Jackson loved and cared for us deeply and we were shocked by his passing.

The Jackson Roeder Memorial Fund was set up at Centracare Health Foundation as part of the Behavioral Health Funds. Our family started selling reprints of Jackson's artwork with all proceeds going to this fund. Our family’s hope is to raise money for suicide prevention & mental health awareness, specifically in Central Minnesota. This fund will provide support for those suffering with mental illness, especially children and adolescents. We want to make the path to getting help easier. Surely, we will bring mental illness out into the open and lessen the stigma. Jackson’s legacy already has and will continue to implement changes in our community for others.

-Jackson’s Little Sister,

Cassie Roeder and the Roeder Family


To find more mental health/suicide prevention resources as well as view and purchase Jackson’s artwork, go to jacksonroeder.com 


2018 Featured Families - Cahli Health and Nick Chock
Nick Chock 
Jul 9, 1996 - Jun 9, 2015
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When I was thinking about writing this I thought it would be easy- I’d just tell you about all the wonderful things that made Nick special.  The truth is it’s hard to summarize in a paragraph all the things we miss about him since he died.  As most families we never thought this would be “our story”.  Nick was smart, loving, caring, and lit up the world.   He loved hanging out with his friends and family, the outdoors, playing video games, and mostly riding his 4-wheeler.   He was the kind of person you could count on, who stuck by his word, and made you feel like you were truly special and loved.  He made me feel like I was getting something right.  He made the world a better place just by being in it. 

We never saw June 9, 2015 coming.   Nick had never shown any signs of depression- that night he had an argument with his girlfriend and for some reason his impulse was to end the pain.  The “why’s” of suicide have been the hardest.  Why him?  Why didn’t he know this would pass and life would be back to “normal”?  Why didn’t he know that his decision would devastate us?  Why didn’t I say something more, see something?  When was the last time I told him I loved him?   They could go on and on.  Today, 2 years and 10 months later, the pain of his loss is deep and at times takes my breath away.  I work every day to try and figure out a way to live without him.  His pain just transferred to us  but the difference is our “normal” has to become a “new normal”.  

The milestones we have missed and will continue to miss sadden me.  We will never see him marry, have children of his own, or all the other things parents look forward to.  I wonder what he would have looked like as he aged.  I wonder if his niece would have had him wrapped around her finger.   I wonder what kind of a father he would have been?  It’s likely I’ll live longer without him than I had with him.  18 years and 11 months is not enough time. 

It’s difficult enough to lose someone you love, especially a child, but when it’s from suicide you feel like you have to defend your loved one.  As if their death requires an explanation or something.  Nick didn’t commit a crime.  I believe his death was a mistake, that he got caught up in the moment.  I hope someday we find compassion for suicide victims like we do cancer victims or any other victim.  As much as some people think they “did it to themselves” I believe we can’t understand what happened to our loves ones at that moment.  

Life doesn’t have a rewind button; just play, fast forward, or stop.  Part of us stopped June 9, 2015 and the other parts are trying to learn to play again.  Despite some of the healing, it doesn’t change the fact that I miss him terribly. 

I wish I could have one more hug, one more smile, or one more I love you.  Most of all, I wish this wasn’t our story.   I saw a saying on a suicide support website that a mother put on her child’s gravestone that sums up Nick………… “You weren’t the sunrise, you weren’t the sunset.  You were the sun.”   Without him here life is a little less bright.

Cahli Heath
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A ton is a ton.

Mental illness is mental illness.

The moment my depression and anxiety started isn’t as clear as the day I took my life back.  January 2nd, 2018 is the day I raised my white flag and surrendered my fight in silence. New year new you, right?  More like New Year new lease on life.  My battle with depression goes back as far as I can remember.  I’ve always fought seasonal depression or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  Anxiety seemed to catch on somewhere around my junior year of high school.  Realistically though it never seemed to be “that bad” to me until my 25th birthday this past July.

Normally, my birthday is my favorite holiday.  Ask any of my family and they will tell you plenty of stories about my count downs.  This year was different though.  Insert quarter life crisis.  “I’m not married.”  “I don’t have kids.”  “I love my job but can I make it a career?”  “I really should have been (here) by now.”  “I really should have achieved (this) by now.”  Fast forward to almost 6 months later.  All that time with the usual daily ups and downs.  Except now the ups feel like a quick breath of fresh air, and the downs feel like a black hole.  A black hole that left me laying in bed not wanting to do a thing.  It’s not that I was extremely sad, or constantly exhausted.  I was just irritable.  It was easier if I stayed in my hole, away from everyone.  Everyone that is except my truly amazing boyfriend who lets me have bad days, and who celebrates the good days with me.  My “mood” that I kept saying was just a funk was impacting all my relationships though.  My niece and nephew who bring me such joy noticed I was crabby.  I blamed things on my sister for why our relationship was crumbling.  I would rarely talk to my brother wo is my best friend.  Worst of all I took most of my bad attitude out on my parents who are my biggest support system.  Friends?  What friends?  I got good at making excuses to shut people out.

I really owe my life change to my mom.  One night after her listening to me cry and push the blame of my problems onto others she confronted me.  It was in the most loving way possible.  All she really said was do you think it’s time to go to the doctor to talk about your depression.  At first, I was upset, “this is NOT depression.”  But as quickly as that thought came it went.  I broke down and started crying.  I agreed to make a doctor’s appointment to talk about the possibility of getting put on meds.  Now here’s the part where the truth comes out.  For the next week I went back and forth with the idea of calling the doctor or not.  You see, everyone in my immediate family suffers from anxiety or depression.  “But mines not like theirs”, I would tell myself.  In the past I’ve done different things to help cope with my depression and anxiety.  Yoga, meditation, journaling, and drawing; just to name a few.  I could just start doing all those things again couldn’t I?  Sure, I could, and I still can, but now I know they aren’t enough for me.  It’s not like I didn’t previously know about mental illness.  I took multiple psychology classes in college.  What I seemed to have forgotten is that a ton is a ton.  A ton of bricks is just as heavy as a ton of feathers.  They may look different, but they still weigh the same.  Mental illness is mental illness.  My depression and anxiety might look different than yours but that doesn’t mean mine weights more than yours or vice versa.  That thought is what ultimately made me give in and call the doctor.  Sure, my depression and anxiety wasn’t the textbook definition but it still was depression and anxiety.  Little did I know the phone call was the easiest part.

Getting up early on my last day of vacation to go to the doctor; that was hard.  “It’s not that bad do I really need to go?”  “I can still cancel my appointment.”  “Shut up, get up and go, what’s the worse that can happen?”  Driving to the doctor, that was easy.  Getting into the waiting room, that wasn’t too bad either.  Answering the questions related to Depression and Anxiety, that was REALLY hard.  Finally, fully admitting my struggles to a stranger was beyond scary to me.  But I did it.  The whole appointment itself went fairly quick and exceeded my expectations on being understood without judgement.  I got put on a once a day depression and anxiety medication that has 100% changed my life for the better.  At first my body didn’t react great but every day I feel better and better.  I actually feel awake and back to being in control of my mood.  My life is changed.

My message to others is this, a ton is a ton.  Regardless of if you feel like your battle isn’t a fair comparison to someone else you know, doesn’t mean your fight isn’t just as important.  EVERYONE deserves to be healthy and happy.  NOBODY should fight alone.  I promise someone is there; even if it’s me – a stranger – I support you.  It is OKAY to NOT be okay.  Be brave, have faith, share your story, spread love.  ~ Cahli

“Faith and fear both demand you believe in something you cannot see.  You choose! – Bob Proctor

2017 Featured Families - John Ambrose Holtz and Connor Umerski
John Ambrose Holtz
April 14, 1926 - May 26, 2007
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How do you describe a man who set the standard so high for every other person in my life? My dad was an amazing father and a wonderful human being.
I have 11 siblings and not one of us would ever question how much our dad loved each and every one of us every single second of the day. They each have their stories of our dad’s unselfishness and how he could make them smile even when we were sad. I’m going to try to tell my story with my dad and how his Alzheimer’s changed him in so many ways, but still could not take his kind heart and smirky smile away…
I think I really didn’t begin to understand my dad’s amazingness until I was a parent myself. When I was 19, pregnant and unmarried – not once did either of my parents judge me or make me feel like a horrible disgrace of a daughter. When I was a 20, single with a small baby, my parents did everything they could to make sure I was still able to be a young adult with a social life.
I lived in St. Cloud, my parents in Sobieski (near Little Falls) and on weekends I would take Jonathon there tostay overnight so I could go out. 99% of the time I was always back in the morning before Jonathon woke up. It was in one of these early mornings that my dad told me how proud he was of me. What?? A single, unwed mother and he was proud?? That’s the kind of Dad he was; he knew what was important. I grew up in his footsteps – I love my children the way he loved all of us. They are the number one priority in my life, just like all his children and grandchildren were in his. If any of us kids ever needed a babysitter, my parents would gladly cancel plans so we didn’t have to cancel ours. I hope to follow that tradition some day when I am lucky enough to have grandchildren.
My dad would drop anything if anyone needed him. Two times stick out in my mind every time I think of my dad. First, when Jonathon was a baby, I had the stomach flu and didn’t know how I was going to do it; my dad got in his car and brought Jonathon & me back home with him. I was so grateful but I was ready to punch him when he told jokes and made me laugh all the way home. My stomach hurt, I felt miserable but here he was making me smile the entire drive home.
The second thing I always think of is a cold day during wrestling season. Jonathon had wrestling in Alexandria. We woke up late and him and his friend Travis missed the bus. I went into Mommy mode and continued on my journey and just kept driving so I could get the kids there in time for weigh in. I was in my PJs and winter boots, Arianna was still in her PJs and all was good until I realized near Osakis that I was nearly out of gas and didn’t have my purse in the car. Long story short, after the kids were able to keep warm in a police car, my parents paid for the tow truck company to bring me gas over the phone. He then drove all the way to Alexandria to fill my car up with gas and then stayed to watch wrestling and followed me all the way back to Cold Spring just to make sure I made it safely. Not once did I hear how stupid or irresponsible I was. He never was one to say, ‘I told you so’ or make you feel worse than you already did.
Then Alzheimer’s came into our life.
There are many things I think of when itcomes to remembering those days. Petting animals that weren’t there, seeing aliens in trees and telling tales of adventures that we knew weren’t real. With the bad things too, my family has some pretty amazing stories of their own of the light inside my dad. But these 3 personal memories forever changed me…
Before my dad made his final residence at the nursing home, he was at the VA Hospital in the Alzheimer’s unit. He was very agitated and angry so I was called because my mom wasn’t able to make it there. I went there and he was so mad because they were trying to make him eat bugs. Of course they weren’t, but that’s what he was seeing and it literally broke my heart. How awful would it be to have people telling you it’s not bugs when you know with every ounce of your being that it is? I sat with him for the longest time that night; just being there and doing everything I could to calm him. Telling him stupid jokes and distracting him with stories of the grandkids. Although it is one of my worst memories, it also in some weird sense is one of my best. For once in my life, I was able to be there for my dad in a way that he was always there for me.
I tried to go visit my dad often when he was in the VA, it was hard to see my strong dad so vulnerable, with a tray on his wheelchair to prevent him from falling. A tray that he would always try to talk one of us into taking off. Lol. During one of my visits a man came up to me with hate in his eyes and grabbed onto my arm with both of his hands. I knew it wasn’t him and that his delusions were taking him to a very scary place. I somehow managed to stay calm while it took two nurses to pry his hands off of me. That didn’t stop me from going to see my dad and what happened after that made me know somewhere deep inside, my protective dad was still there. In visits after that, he always was between this man & me and would always have his eye on him. I don’t know if he knew why he was doing that, but even with Alzheimer’s my daddy was still watching out for me.
The last memory is one of the funniest and shows what a kind heart my dad had. My dad was at his home and my mom needed to go somewhere so Arianna & me went to sit with him while she was gone. He was in his bedroom sleeping and we were just sitting on the couch watching TV. My dad woke up and came out of his room and saw us sitting there. He looked at us, didn’t say a word and turned right around and went back to his bedroom. I knew it was because he didn’t recognize us. If I came out of my room and saw two strangers sitting on my couch, I think there would be some yelling and ‘who the hell are you?’ and “what are you doing in my house?’ going on. I think deep down knew we were someone who belonged and didn’t want to hurt our feelings by letting us know he didn’t remember who we were.
My dad ended his days in the nursing home. There were a lot of ups and downs as his Alzheimer’s progressed but I always enjoyed going to see my dad. He would still always have a joke and his smirky smile.
Even on his last day, my dad showed what an amazing father he was. It was his 60th wedding anniversary and there was a mass and party all planned. He had been unresponsive since the day before but we all went on with the festivities of the day since they were all set in the same building. 11 of his 12 children and loads of grandchildren were able to be there, but one of my brothers was unable to be. As some of the family left, we knew it wouldn’t be long until my dad left to go to Heaven. We made a call to my brother and told him to come. Once my dad got to hear my brother’s voice, he let go and went on to his next great adventure. Even in those last hours, he wouldn’t let himself go without seeing ALL 12 of his children.  
Daddy, first and foremost, until his very last breath.
I will forever miss and love him. I am grateful he was there to greet Jonathon and picture often the shenanigans those two are up to. And I will always try to live up to his likeness by being the best parent and person I can be.  
Connor Umerski
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Connor was born January 21st, 2005 at the St. Cloud Hospital to John and Tina Umerski. His life started out a little rough right from the start. His Mom had to be induced 6 weeks early due to pregnancy toxemia resulting in issues with her blood pressure. During labor, Connor’s heart rate was fluctuating causing the doctors to move forward with an emergency C-section. Upon being born Connor was admitted to the hospitals NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) due to under developed lungs and concerning developmental issues. While in the NICU he was given the nickname “Moose” for being one of the largest babies in the area. During his time in the NICU he endured many tests and time without his Mom and Dad.
Early on in Connor’s life he was diagnosed with developmental delay issues and had to endure many tests such as CT scans, trips to multiple hospitals including Children’s and Abbot’s. He spent many hours with various doctors, therapists and developmental specialist’s to help him with his motor and speech skills. As time passed he was also diagnosed with Hydrocephalus which meant he has fluid in the front portion of his skull and was also diagnosed with ADHA / Autism Spectrum.  
With the help of many wonderful people including his Day Care provider Kathy Robbins and his school teachers, Connor has overcome many of the difficulties associated with his illness. Sometimes when people who don’t know Connor see him they think he is strange because he acts differently than other kids. One of the ways that we are trying to brining awareness about his illness to his peers at school. While in Elementary school Connor would bring a book each year for his teacher to read to his classmates. The book helped explain to the other kids why Connor would do some of the things he did. 
Once you get to know Connor you will find him to be a very sweet, loving and kind boy. He enjoys spending his time reading books, playing video games, making Lego kits and watching movies. He also enjoys spending time with his little sister Caylee. He is also an active participant in Special Olympics. There have been several times where Connor has successfully competed at the Special Olympics State competition. Connor and his family are very proud of his swimming achievement this past March of qualifying for a trip to the National Games in July 2018 to participate in the Special Olympics National Games in Seattle, WA. Way to go Connor!
2016 Featured Families:  Buddy, Tracy, Kaleb, Kelden & Maija Kjeldergaard and Devin Lee Rufus Brown
Devin Lee Rufus Brown      
January 10 2001-August 10, 2015
Beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew, and friend
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We are forever and profoundly grateful the many ways Devin has touched our lives. Devin and his two younger brothers, Derrick and Damon came into our lives after being placed into foster care. 
Devin was positive, upbeat, and a kind and loving boy. He took pride in being a big brother- a responsibility he took very seriously. He loved helping his brothers with homework, and he found sentimental joy and pride when either of them would bring home art projects from school. 
Devin was inspiring and encouraging to others, he possessed many talents. He had such drive, excelling in anything he put his mind to, football, wrestling, track, making the honor role, and especially caring for his brothers.
Devin was always the one who tried to "mend" others, he could find the best in anyone. He never wanted any of his friends or family to feel unworthy of love or to feel lonely. He was the first to apologize and felt others pain more deeply than than his young mind could understand.
Outwardly, Devin gave the appearance of being happy and strong for others, inwardly he was sensitive and struggled with anxiety and depression. Occasionally we would go through a "rough patch" just as any pre-teen. However, after a minor course correction, followed by lots of love and reassurance, everything would normalize.... Or so we thought.
The last conversation with our beloved Devin was him saying "good night, I love you, and see you in the morning". This was just after he carried his younger brother Derrick to bed and tucked him in, which happened to be for the last time.
August 10th 2015 is a day that forever changed the lives and hearts of the family and friends who loved Devin.
It was also the first day of football practice, a day Devin had been looking forward to all summer. Devin never made it to football practice, nor did we get to hear him say good morning. Devin had taken his own life in the early morning hours. On his nightstand laid his football attire for that morning.
Devin worked so hard to make other smile, but yet he lived in quiet desperation. There are many unanswered questions, such as why, what could we have done, what should we have done differently, compounded with guilt and grief beyond meaningful or comprehensible explanation.
Through our sadness we have also found comfort in living out Devins motto, " Love like you are dying" which now makes perfect sense. Devin did just that, he loved with his whole heart, he gave when he had nothing to give, and he was the light for all on our darkest days.
He may not be with us in the physical world, however the difference he made continues to enhance and change the lives of those he left behind. Make each day count and never forgo the opportunity to say "I love you" or to ask for "just one more hug". Tomorrow is not a guarantee and today is a gift-live in the present.
Til we see you again, we love and miss you Devin.
In loving memory,
Devin Brown Family
Buddy, Tracy, Kaleb, Kelden and Maija Kjeldergaard 
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From the outside we almost look like a typical family...husband and wife with three amazing kids.... but if this picture were a video it would not take long to notice that we are far from typical. We are the Kjeldergaards, a family that works very hard not to let mental health issues defeat us. On paper we have diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and the big one- Autism Spectrum Disorder times THREE (although our oldest son would be labeled with Aspergers Disorder if the DSM-V still recognized it). In reality we have all this plus depressive tendencies and potential Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 
(It's possible -- http://differentdream.com/2015/02/stress-ptsd-and-parents-of-kids-with-special-needs/ ) Special needs parenting is a roller coaster. I constantly am grasping at things to celebrate and try to ignore the disappointments and grieving because of the things my children cannot do for themselves. I'm just saying it is possible and I see how other parents with disabled children struggle too. 
Buddy and I have been together for 20 years now. We learned that Kaleb had Aspergers after a very difficult year of kindergarten and school staff telling us he was just naughty, an only child, and undisciplined. But we knew better. I was already in college to become a teacher and got into Special Education just to be able to have better responses to other's negative comments. The best tool we have in advocating for our kids is knowledge. It was not our parenting skills that were making him that way. A lot of life happened after that. We moved back to Minnesota and after I got a stable job teaching again we decided that Kaleb needed siblings. We prayed like crazy that the next child would develop typically and meet all the necessary milestones at the right times but by 12-18 months we determined that Autism had entered our lives in a different way. Maybe child number 3 would be a big help to Kelden and he would have someone developing near his level. Our hopes were a little higher that our daughter would escape the diagnosis of Autism or at the very least be higher functioning like Kaleb. Our original dream was to have at least 3 children but with the high financial and time demands Autism has placed on our family and Maija's diagnosis at age 2 it was time to let go of that dream. Our kids still do learn from each other- not so much the skills that match their chronological ages- but patience and especially for Kaleb being reminded how far he has come and how hard it can be to manipulate the environment to keep everyone calm and safe. 
Too many times as parents of special needs kids we've read or heard the adage "if you think our hands are full you should see our hearts". The struggles we go through daily with Kaleb (18 y), Kelden (6 y), and Maija (3 y) all being on the spectrum have less to do with the strength of our hands or our hearts but more to do with the strength of our minds and souls. Kelden is completely non-verbal at this point, just got glasses for the first time, and is still working on toilet training. Kelden has a restrictive diet to exclude foods that give him additional behaviors and tummy issues which adds to the financial drain of raising kids with special needs. Maija is starting to make progress in all areas with just over 5 real words and a handful of approximations. Kaleb is about to make the transition from high school to post secondary options. All three kids have special education services, therapies, and Kelden regularly tests medical professionals' knowledge for us to keep him healthy. Physically as parents we have conditioned ourselves to push through the exhaustion but mentally we struggle. Sleep is often in low supply. Buddy and I try to handle as much as we can on our own but still frequently rely on our family and others for support in forms of time away/respite, laughter, and care or compassion for our kids just to get enough accomplished to get by. Some days it feels like we can never do enough to make a significant dent in all the tasks we need to do to keep everyone healthy, happy, and the house in good shape. It just plain stinks that our kids can do very little independently without one of us at their side to guide them. Don't let the kids' chronological ages fool you- most days it feels like we are raising two 2 year olds and a 15 year old. 
A typical day at the Kjeldergaard house is busy, non-stop, predictable and unpredictable all rolled into one. Our days start early and end late. We spend a lot of time working on toilet training or changing pull ups, trying to get our kids to interact with toys and not just watch Toy Story all the time, when we are not cleaning and cooking. It can take up to 30 minutes to get every one out of the house and ready for their day. It also takes over a half an hour to unpack at the end of the day and figure out how the day went for the kids since they can't tell us themselves. Nothing happens last minute for us because there is always so much preparation involved. We spend at least 2 hours every weekend just preparing Kelden's meals for the week. I teach kids with special needs in Brainerd. My teaching license could allow me to some day be a Director of Special Education but my world is too crazy to even think about being an administrator until my kids are a little older. Buddy has 2 part time jobs driving bus and making deliveries. Despite all the things that need to be done at home we keep our sanity by having other adults to talk with and get a break from home issues. We work hard for every thing we have and every accomplishment. 
When we get a moment to breathe we do thank God for what we have. We do have kids that can learn and grow even if their pace is much slower than their peers. Gross motor wise our kids don't have limitations and can run, jump, and climb even when we don't want them to. Our kids are happy. They accept who they are and can bring joy to others. They even teach the world about their Autism in their own ways at school and in public. 
We are thankful we were chosen to be a feature family this year for the Let the Sun Shine Run/Walk. Our original reasons to participate where biological but now also encompass the ability to bring awareness to many different forms of mental health issues. Many people you cross paths with in your own corner of the world are struggling with conditions you can't even see. Just like us. Not all disabilities are physical. We challenge you to do or say something positive for one person a week. Say something kind. Cook someone a meal, just because. Offer to run an errand for someone. No act of kindness is too small. You never know how your action will impact others and lighten their struggle for even a minute or two. 
~ Tracy and Buddy Kjeldergaard 
2015 Featured Families - David Gothier,  Ryan Pflipsen,  Joseph Pierce
Joseph Stephen Pierce   5/28/1993- 7/9/2013
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“We are not prepared, most of us, to be left behind. We thought we would die before our spouse, our friend, our sibling, or our child. And yet, here we are having to cope with this aloneness and loneliness at that same time.
Even though outliving the person we loved was never part of our plan, never part of our expectation, it is, in a way, our gift to that person. It is we, instead of our loved ones, who are experiencing sorrow. I am alone and I am lonely, but if I were asked to decide between being the cause for sorrow or accepting sorrow of loss, which would I select? I am here to go on, to carry the legacy of my relationship into the days ahead, to make bright my loved one’s memory, to see it as a fire from which I can forge a future.”
Joseph’s legacy is best summarized in his own words, words he wrote on a job application for a PCA position, just nine hours before he took his own life on the night of July 9th, 2013.  
“I feel I would be great for this job. I have a huge heart, I care a lot about people, and I am very respectful”.
I also was able to get his answers to the “interview questions” and when asked what he considered to be his greatest strengths, he answered, “perseverance, cares about everything I do, and people”, “devoted”, and “big heart”.
I received a text from Joe after he completed this interview telling me that he was “all smiles from ear to ear, and all he had to do was pass the background check” which we knew was not going to be a problem, and he would be hired. He was so excited.
Of course this is not all that he was, but it was such a huge part of who he was as a person, and how he lived his life. Joseph was funny beyond measure and could always make you smile or laugh.  (Anyone who has ever gone through a drive thru with him will know what I am talking about.)  He was caring, compassionate, and shared his story of experience, strength and hope with others.  He was always the one who would give money to those on the street corner, and always felt bad for those he felt were being picked on, bullied, and less fortunate than himself. Joseph was someone who was not afraid to show his emotions, and he was an emotional being without question.  Joseph also loved to shop. He loved shoes, and he loved hats, and always had to match. Once he wrote as a Facebook post that “the hardest decision of his day is to decide what to wear…lol”.   Joe also loved to rap, and made some awesome YouTube videos that I will always be grateful to have! Joseph was a son, a “baby brother”, a grandson, a nephew, boyfriend, and a good friend to many.
As in life, in death, Joe continued to give of himself.  Slightly over a year after his death, the Lion’s Eye Bank, and the Donate Life Foundation contacted me.  They informed me that as a result of Joseph’s gifts, he has donated to five cardio patients, two from Minnesota, one from NY, Georgia, and California...She could only tell me that two of these recipients were age 49 and 52. The other 16 recipients were what they called tissue and bone allographs. These recipients ranged in age from 32 to 80 years old, and lived in six different states. Most of these donations were to fix spinal cord injuries. He also was able to give two people the gift of sight.  (Joseph was always the first to show off his awesome “seeing skills”.) That’s over 21 people!  I am so very proud of the fact that he chose to be an organ donor.
Being Joe’s mom, I could obviously go on and on. I look back over the pictures and I remember all the times, and emotions of those moments. This is when I get overwhelmed because it is not in how Joseph died, but how he lived, and what he meant to our family.  We’ve had so many great times, great opportunities, and have been blessed with so many people that love us. However, just like any other family; we have had our share of hardships and heartache. Joe struggled with depression, anxiety, addiction, being bullied, etc.… and all the pain and emotions that these entail.  He worked so hard at overcoming these obstacles, and I was so proud of him, but it wasn’t enough. The realization that we can “only love someone, we can not save them”, God knows we tried, has been a hard reality to accept.
No experience is set apart from all other experiences. There is an eternal flow in our lives and it carries us from one moment, one experience into the next. The moment Joseph died, the moment we “heard”, changed our lives forever. As much as it felt like our world had stopped, it did not.  Learning to live, really live, after someone we love so much has died has not been easy. I am not sure I am even there yet.  
These past twenty months, which I often find myself   referring to as “after Joe died”,
I have learned that I am still, and always will be, Joe’s mom, but I am parenting in a different way. A way in which I know my son is no longer suffering, and is happy and safe, something every parent wants for his or her children. He is watching over us, taking care of us, and is very much present in spirit.
“I wish I could have died before my loved one.
I never thought I would have to outlive him.”
The most I ever did for you, was to outlive you
But that is much.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay
We will forever remember ALL the memories of  “our story”, our life, of our time together. All 20 years and 42 days.  The ups, the downs, the great times, and the not so great times of every day life, and hold them in our hearts forever. For it is these stories, these experiences, that make us who we are today.
Our story continues, but we will always be better people for having loved you, and you us while you were here on Earth.
Joseph Stephen Pierce we love you, and miss you every day!  
Love Mom, and Jessica
Ryan Michael Plipsen
Son - Brother - Uncle - Grandson - Nephew & Friend
“The moment you created another human was the moment you choose to spend the rest of your life putting someone else before yourself.”
We were blessed with our beautiful baby boy on October 1, 1980. We named him Ryan Michael, after his father. Ryan was our second child, our oldest son. Ryan grew-up fast and strong. Always the older brother to Bill and the protector to his sister, Kristie. Ryan was very independent but always willing to help when needed. Ryan loved new adventures and new challenges. Ryan had this wonderful contagious laugh. Ryan’s favorite things in life to do were: fishing, hunting, riding his Harley and snowmobiling especially his out west trips. Ryan was a friend to all and a helping hand to anyone in need. He brought so much joy in our life. Watching him play with his brother and sister, growing up to be able help his dad. As he got older, we enjoyed his hunting and fishing stories. One of Ryan’s biggest accomplishments’ when he drove in yard with his very own Peterbilt Semi - see like his dad and brother he was a truck driver…Then on August 18, 2006 Ryan decided to leave our lives. No warning No reason and our lives shattered.
Losing Ryan was the hardest thing we have ever faced. We were not aware of Ryan’s sadness. We have faced so many questions, why, what happened, where did we go wrong? If we knew the answers we could have fixed them and we could have our son back. And our family would be whole again. As parents who have lost their son to suicide there is such a feeling of hopelessness and you cannot find any joy in life. Part of you has died with him. Grief had taken over our lives. We know what it feels like when your heart is broken.
We had to learn to live without our son. We also had to acknowledge that our lives will never be the same. We deeply miss Ryan and he will always be loved.
Our family has grown over the years. Our daughter, Kristie and her husband John have four beautiful children. Our son Bill and wife Krissy have three beautiful children. Ryan has missed the opportunity to meet all of his nieces and nephews but they are very aware that Ryan is in heaven and he is truly missed. Without our family we could not have made it this far.
Living without Ryan is like living in a fog and not knowing what it going to happen the next day. The only option you have is to put your faith in God and let him guide you on the journey of life.
How do you put into words what its like to lose your son. Then you thank God for the gift it was to be apart of Ryan’s life.
Throughout all the tragedy and heartache of losing Ryan we as a family have learned a lot. We have learned to try and not sweat the small stuff. Live life to the fullest in new adventures and not worry about the consequences as long as it makes you happy. Take everyday as a gift. 
Ryan is deeply missed by all of his family. WE LOVE YOU RYAN.
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
David William Gothier 12/30/1960- 10/01/2012
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The act of grieving is difficult to understand, but grieving the loss of someone due to suicide is even more challenging. Not only do you go through the steps of grievance but you become haunted by the whys. The unfortunate thing is that these are questions that will never be answered. 
To Patty he was a great husband, for Alicia, Amanda, and Michelle he was a terrific father, and to the boys a spectacular grandfather. For others he was a brother, he was a son, and he was a friend. He left his mark on this earth not by his final moments, but by the impact he had on others. David had the ability to touch lives in ways that many will never do. It was those tight hugs! It was his sparkling smile.  The dance moves he had would clear out the dance floor.  It was his ability to brighten up the room and bring smiles to everyone throughout. He deeply loved those around him, and he was sure to tell you. 
Not only was David a passionate family man, but also he was an avid sports fanatic. He was a Vikings fan (regardless how well they were doing) we knew that every Sunday afternoon the television was his. He would sit/stand/jump around the TV and cheer as if the players could hear him. You’d know that he was enjoying the game when he’d bring out his family’s famous “Gothier Dip”. He had many hobbies but golfing and fishing were the foremost ones. Every fish opener you would find David in his quiet favorite spot at the Mill Dam in Fair Haven.
For many, October 1st is just any other beautiful Autumn day. However, for our families it is a brutal reminder of that day in 2012. David had a battle with depression and he had enough and made a life changing decision. We knew that he was feeling down, but we never saw that tragic day happening. October 1, 2012, would be a day that would change our lives forever. It would test our strength, it would test our faith, and it would test us all as a family, but together, with the power of family, we have been able to mourn the death of David. Together, we have been able to remember his legacy, and together, he will live on forever within our hearts. 
There’s not a day that goes by that you are not thought about. We may have an aching heart or cheerful smiles, but it always comes down to the amount of love that we have for you. 
With love,
Your family
Our brother David is forever cradled in the loving arms of God, he is rested and his sadness is gone. He was a near middle in a family of 11 – 8 boys and 3 girls, better known as Marge’s tribe. We grew up crazy wild! Each of us experiencing and confronting challenges and demons from our childhood as we grew. David as a leader, in a timid way at times, MISTER Big time “FUN” and a wonderful brother, dad and grandpa. Lover to all, big hugs, handsome in a movie star way, the guy that made your sides ache 
from the laughter he brought your way. Loyal and loving to his family, but behind the laughter and confidence was hidden sadness and darkness that he tried to resist…and forget, covering this up from those of us that loved him most and knew only the fun loving Davey Vegas – singing Karaoke and dancing like Michael Jackson. Never can we think of him and not smile, his memory is wrapped around each of us with complete joy and love. We didn’t know, we couldn’t…and he wouldn’t have wanted us to. Life without him is not quite right – there’s a missing link in our tribal legacy without him. We find comfort in knowing he is with Mama and Gary, and we keep this joy he gave us by walking down “Country Roads” and loving those “Rainy Nights”, singing till the music stops and we are together again. Forever in our hearts David William Gothier
2014 Featured Families - Patrick Vosen, Rick Dingmann and Shawn Killeaney
Shawn Michael Killeaney 08/03/1989 - 02/19/2012
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On February 19, 2012, I received a phone call that would change my life forever.  While on vacation in Las Vegas I received a call from my 19 year old son Trevor, telling me that my 22 year old son Shawn had shot himself.  That is by far the worst day of my entire life.  Prior to this event I thought I had a clue of what mental illness was, but clearly I had so much more to learn.  
Shawn Michael Killeaney was a normal 22 year old senior in college preparing  for graduation at Bemidji State University at the time of his death.  From little on he knew he wanted to be a police officer and he was getting so close to accomplishing this goal.  He was scheduled to graduate from BSU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice in May and begin his Skills Training in June.  He had a part time job at a Juvenile Correctional Facility, a steady girl friend, an ever evolving and expanding network of friends, a family that loved him, and a strong passion for several forms of outdoor activities, especially waterfowl hunting and bow fishing.
Since Shawn’s death I have read every book I can get my hands on regarding suicide and mental illness looking for answers.  Unfortunately I have not found the answers I am looking for, however I am learning a great deal.
Growing up Shawn was a very active little boy, always on the go.  That never changed throughout his short life, he was busy all the time.   He seemed to be with his friends most often, which would almost always include his brother who was also his best friend.  Shawn enjoyed fishing, hunting, watching and playing hockey, watching football games, playing video games all hours of the day or night.  
When Shawn got an idea in is his head he wanted to do something about it right now.  He also wanted the best and biggest quantity of whatever his passion was at that particular time in his life.  When he began his obsession with waterfowl hunting he needed everything imaginable right then.  He couldn’t have just 1 dozen decoys he needed 5 dozen decoys, and of course whatever it was he made it happen.   Looking back I am glad he lived this way since his life ended so soon.  
He always seemed to be a bit anxious about things and of course, I can be the same way, so I just always joked about him "being just like his Momma", not realizing that Anxiety is a form of Mental Illness and in the end I believe the anxiety and impulsivity were the cause of his final decision in taking his life. 
If anyone had ever told me Shawn would one day take his life I would have never believed them, he was not depressed or sad and always appeared to be loving life.   The weekend he passed away, he had a series of events take place that seemed to make him feel out of control and hopeless.  Sadly, Shawn chose a very permanent solution to address a temporary problem.  
Not a single day goes by that I do not miss Shawn’s smiling face, the sound of his voice,  the phone calls about nothing at all, his sense of humor,  his company, basically EVERYTHING about him. 
I love you so very much Shawny, 
Rick A. Dingmann 7/27/1976 - 10/10/2011
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We did not know the pain you had,
or hear your final sigh.
We only knew you passed away,
without a last good-bye.
God gave us strength to face it, and
the courage to bear the blow.
But what it meant to lose you, no
one will ever know.
The tears we shed were wiped away,
but the heartache will always stay.
No one knows the grief we bear,
when our families meet and you
aren't there.
You left so suddenly, your thoughts
unknown, but you left us
MEMORIES we are proud to own!
Who was Rick? 
So many descriptions and titles for this wonderful person! Son, Brother, God father, Uncle, Nephew, Cousin, Friend, Artist, Carpenter, Fisherman, Liberal, Realist, Dreamer, Thinker, Athlete, Farmer, Poet, Photographer, Hippie, and as his loving brother liked to call him, a Ginger Kid... (Due to his vibrant red hair).
Rick came into the lives of Don and Maryann Dingmann in August of 1976, forever changing their lives.  Maryann recalls the moment that she got the call. There was a little boy that could be theirs. She walked out of her job and never looked back! The agent asked Don and Maryann if they minded red hair. Maryann being a feisty red head herself had no hesitation. From the first time they held Rick in there arms, they knew that he was theirs, that he was meant for them. They named him Rick Alvin Dingmann, after his Godfather Alvin Dingmann.
Even in his childhood, Rick was an old soul. Don and Maryann conceived a child (Danny) after many years of trying with no luck. Maryann was giving Rick a bath one night and Rick asked her, "Mom, if someone adopts a child and then those parents get pregnant and have a baby of their own, does that child have to be given back"? Maryann could not believe that this little boy could thinks so deeply. On the day of Kindergarten graduation, Rick was crying on the way home. Maryann asked Rick what was wrong, he told her "I just did not want it to end"! 
At age 5 Rick wanted to go along duck hunting with his dad. Donny had to carry him out to the duck boat and lift him in. Even at that age Rick could sit still and enjoy nature! When he was old enough to go through gun safety training, he was so excited. Maryann recalls the first time he shot a deer. He came home and told her all about it. He told her that after he shot and realized that he had hit his target, he got this tingly feeling that started at the top of his head and went throughout his whole body. He told her he felt like he could fly away.  
The outdoors will always be a place where we can find Rick now. His Dad and  brother feel Rick with them when they are hunting. Sitting in a deer stand in the quiet forest with all of the earthy smells with the sound of squirells and birds moving in the trees around them, they think of Rick. When his his mother sees a tulip she recalls Rick bringing her a bouquet of them a couple years in a row when he was younger. It did not dawn on her until she was taking a walk around town one day that a lot of neighbors in the area had tulips. She asked Rick, are you buying these flowers or are you taking them out of peoples yards, he just grinned and told her not to worry about it! 
Rick also had a little taste of fame at age 11. He was picked to be honorary bat boy for the Minnesota Twins. It was 1987, the year they won the world series. He has a bat and ball that was signed by the team, something his family will forever treasure.
Rick worked for Don Dingmann Construction (his dads construction company) threw middle and high school. During that time he flurished with carpenter skills from his Dad. Over the last 18 years, Rick had many different jobs around the country wher he used these skills. I am sure that everytime he picked up a hammer, heard the sound of a saw or smelled the rich sent of varnish, he would think of home and smile!  Rick enjoyed making things and thinking of new things to make! If he would have made everything that he thought up he would have lived until he was 150 for sure! 
Rick was a very good athlete, he played basketball, foot ball, baseball, wrestling. He lettered in foot ball in high school. He had many good friends in high school and kept in touch with most of them throughout his adult life.
Maryann remembers that back in Rick’s senior year in high school he had a bunch of boys over at their house. In her kitchen, Rick was buzzing of of their heads. She had to kick them down to the basement because her kitchen was getting full of hair! Rick liked to buzz his hair off and Maryann would get so mad because she could not see his red hair. She made him promise to grow it out enough to see it for his senior pictures.
When Rick was 18, he drove out to Oregon to work with his Aunt Kate for the winter. It was very hard for Don, Maryann and Danny to see him leave. He loved it out there! 
He ended up going back out west where he lived for 10 years, working and having fun... Living his Life! 
Rick had a warm, fun-loving spirit, and people felt a calm in his presence. When talking with Rick, he listened intenlty and with his heart. Rick was a quiet leader, who “Marched to the beat of his own drum” in a way that inspired many to be more authentic to who they really are. Rick deeply valued the beauty of nature and found solace and peace when experiencing the outdoors.
Rick did and experienced more things in his 35 years that most people never dream of doing in an entire life time. Its true the saying "Its not the number of breaths that you take, its the moments that take your breath away". Rick had so many dreams and ideas, this world really was too small for him. 
If only Rick could have seen the mark he left behind him. Don, Maryann and Daniel will never forget the family and friends that flocked to the home after Rick passed. Those people will never know exactly how much it meant to them. There was not a moment where a shoulder was not close to cry on. There was not a second where there was not someone there just to cry with. There were so many beautiful memories and stories shared over those horrible days. Don and Maryann were getting letters and emails pouring in from all around the country of people that knew Rick. They found out things about him that they never knew. I know that Rick was looking down and realized how many people loved him, and how important he really was. 
Death is so bittersweet. Rick was suffering in this life, and we know that he is flourishing in the next! His death brought so much sorrow and also brought us closer together. We miss him everyday, yet we feel that he is closer then he ever was, because he is now living in our hearts. 
Oh, the tree of life is growing
Where the spirit never dies
And the bright light of salvation shines
In dark and empty skies
BOB DYLAN, "Death Is Not the End"
We love you Ricky! 


Patrick John Vosen  6/11/59 - 2/22/07

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A great Father is someone who loves his children unconditionally, teaches them right from wrong, and instills in them respect, dignity and individuality. Our Father was that and more. 
Growing up with our Dad, we were able to experience go-kart rides, modifying bicycles, spending days at the beach, four-wheeling, dirt-biking, motorcycle rides, collecting agates, camping, family vacations, grouse hunting, fishing, ice-skating, helping fix stuff, snowmobiling, sledding, making tree forts, and so much more. You could say we were the luckiest kids around!
Besides the fun activities he did with us, he was also someone whom we respected, looked up to and completely adored. He was a friend to many and to this day, he is remembered fondly. Multiple times, we have had people we have never met tell us how admired our dad was. 
We are sad that he has missed out on such important life events, such as graduations, weddings and other special family events, but we are lucky to have had the time with him that we did. The memories and campfire songs that he sang with us will never be forgotten.  We will continue to let his legacy live on through pictures, stories, home videos and his unique keepsakes that were left to us.  
Love You Dad, Scott & Stephanie
     This is a difficult letter to write. My brother Patrick took his lifein 2007, a part of me died that day also. Death is a part of life, but suicide is not, it's devastating to a family. We were brought up a loving family, we were always there for each other. Life and family is not the same without Patrick. I have so many unanswered questions and thoughts of what if and why? 
     I realize that pain and illness took over Patrick's thoughts and control and caused confusion. The Patrick I grew up with and loved so much would not have done this, he loved his family too much.  
     Patrick is with mom and dad. I am blessed with many wonderful memories of Patrick, our brotherly bond, we enjoyed muscle cars, hunting, camping, 4th of July celebration/campout, many other gatherings, and of course the sound of his Harley Davidson. Most important I see Patrick through the eyes on his children. I am proud of Scott and Stephanie, what they went through, and what they have achieved. 
     Someday when God's plan for us is complete, we will all be together again. Until then I love you brother, miss you so much!
Love, Tom
My Brother Patrick
"M" My mom & dad brought us into this world as brothers. 
"Y" You kept me safe from harm & taught me well. 
"B" Because of this, we are & always will be brothers. Then & Forever. 
"R" Remembering the closeness we had together. 
"O" On the many occasions we called one another for help. 
"T" Thinking of you still. Everyday. 
"H" Having a good laugh or cry when times were good or bad. 
"E" Equipped with an answer when I sometimes came up short. 
"R" Respecting my thoughts and opinions whether good or bad. 
"P" Putting our differences aside and not holding a grudge against one another. 
"A" Always willing to give and not receive. 
"T" Thinking of others & not of yourself. 
"R" Remembering of you always stopping by to say hello. 
"I" Instinctively knowing what to say or do to make a difference. 
"C" Calling in the dark a.m. hours to say, "put on some coffee because I'm on my way over".
"K" Knowing this made us brothers. Just the way I liked it!! 
Your Brother, John
2013 Featured Families: Stacy Ann Orbeck, Brad Faust and Aaron Holzheimer
Aaron Ross Holzheimer   1/12/84 - 9/26/08
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A dictionary defines a "friend" as someone who brings joy into the lives of others, and a "friend" defines Aaron to a tee. Aaron was a friend to many. He made friends easily and never had a shortage of friends. He was the kind of friend who would give the shirt off his back, or if needed, would drop everything and go. It seemed that all who met Aaron, loved him. Not only was Aaron a great friend, he was also a wonderful son, brother, uncle, grandson, cousin, and nephew. Aaron seemed to have "it all" as the saying goes, but although he never showed it, deep inside must have felt so much pain and loneliness for we lost Aaron on September 26, 2008, and our lives will never be the same.
Aaron grew up in a very typical, loving family. He was the youngest of three. As a child, Aaron loved dinosaurs, animals, Lincoln Logs, and Legos. He could spend hours creating farm sites and pens to house his toy cows, horses, pigs, and dinosaurs. A weekly ritual was heading to Mills Fleet Farm after church on Sunday to pick out a new plastic animal for his growing collection, and a yearly trip to the Minnesota Zoo was a must. Aaron loved playing with his dog, Brandon, and his cat, Buster. Buster had a special affection for Aaron, and it made his family laugh at the way Buster would sneak up on him and then pounce as he lay on the floor watching TV. After that a chase would ensue with Buster in the lead and Aaron right on his tail. He also loved playing video games and racing against Mom in a game of Mario Kart. Mom wasn't very good, but Aaron always tried to give her a fighting chance. Dad and Aaron loved to do building projects together. Building in the winter involved lots of snow forts and snow characters. One winter they built an igloo and Aaron, Dad, brother Adam, and cousins slept in it overnight. They all thought that was the coolest thing. One summer when Aaron was about 12, that same crew built a fort on stilts, and they enjoyed many fun, lazy, summer afternoons playing in it. 
As Aaron got older, he developed a love for fishing, snowmobiling, and four-wheeling. He looked forward to going ot his aunt and uncle's cabin near Park Rapids and could spend the entire day on the lake; even if the fish weren't biting. He just liked being out in nature. He also liked playing cards, swimming, going to the local parks to disc golf with friends, and the occasional trip to the casino. Aaron always seemed to be up for any adventure that came his way.
Aaron will never be forgotten and his spirit will live on in all of those who knew and loved him.
Aaron, we miss you and love you. You made our lives complete.
Love from Dad, Mom, Adam, Sara, Nate, Brooklyn & Brynn
Brad Faust  7/27/85 – 12/23/06
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The day our son, and only child Brad, died, was Saturday December 23, 2006. He was 21 years old. Brad was attending college in Michigan, and was to be coming home for Christmas break.
Brad had no history of mental illness, or depression. He had always done excellent at school and was previously doing very well at college. When he was home at Thanksgiving break, we had some of the best days ever. That was just 4 weeks before he took his life.
On December 23, 2006 at about 1:00AM, while we slept, Brad was composing his final letter to us. I woke up at about 4:00AM, and I thought about calling Brad to make sure he didn’t over sleep and wouldn’t miss his flight. But he always said we didn’t have to call him, he wouldn’t be late. So this time I didn’t. I’ll always wonder what would have happened if I had.
Brad was to arrive at the St. Cloud Airport that day. I talked to him the day before, and we made plans for some of the things we were going to do while he was home. I went to pick him up at the airport.  His Mom could not make it that day because she had to work.  I sat down and waited for his flight to arrive. I always loved seeing him walk through the door. There were usually no more than a dozen people on the plane, and Brad was usually the first one off. This day, he never got off the plane. That was the beginning of our unimaginable horror.
Brad was apparently a very good actor. In his final note to us, he said he had a deep feeling of emptiness and found no satisfaction in anything that he did.  He never had any noticeable problems when he was at home.  How could he have hid it so well from us and all of his friends? We will always bear the guilt of not seeing that our buddy was suffering.
Brad had a loyal group of friends that he spent time with, but he always seemed to get along with everyone. Even as Brad grew older, he still spent lots of time with us as a family. We always chose to spend most of our time with Brad, and thankfully, he chose to do the same with us. We couldn’t have asked for a better son.
Brad was going to school for Chemical Engineering. He always loved math and science. Before he was 18, Brad was active in Boy Scouts, and became an Eagle Scout in 2003. Brad loved camping, hiking, Frisbee, and disc golf. He also loved collector cars and car shows.
How could we spend that much time with Brad, and not know that he was hurting? We can only cling to the hope that when Brad was with us, he truly was happy.
We will always love you and miss you,
Mom and Dad
One Cold and Lonely Night
On a cold and lonely night, my only child left me,
So sad and all alone, his pain I could not see.
His happiness was real I know, I felt it in my heart,
His sadness was also real, I could not see that part.
On a cold and lonely night, my boy wasn’t sleeping,
Into his kind heart, pain was slowly creeping,
He felt his life was empty, joy he could not feel,
He didn’t understand the pain, or know if it was real.
On a cold and lonely night, my best friend felt alone,
He did not want to ask for help, he faced it on his own.
He could not see the joy we had, it was hidden by the pain,
The emptiness was always there, he just could not explain.
On a cold and lonely night, he sat alone and thinking,
How the pain was growing, his future slowly shrinking.
My future went with him, his pain I must now bear,
At his door I call his name, but I know that he’s not there.
On a cold and lonely night, I now quietly weep,
I only see him in my dreams, if only I could sleep.
Stacy Ann Orbeck 4/24/1991 - 2/3/2012
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Stacy with her unforgetable smile.
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On April 24, 1991 we were blessed with a beautiful daughter. Stacy was the daughter her mother dreamed of and the apple of her daddy’s eyes. She was loved as a beautiful, highspirited daughter and a fun and playful sister to her two brothers. She was also loved and admired as a granddaughter, niece, cousin, friend, teammate, and co-worker.
Stacy was very sports oriented. She especially enjoyed soccer, snowboarding, snowshoeing, wakeboarding, biking, and walks with our dog, Rusty. She had a love for the outdoors and a respect for Mother Nature and as a result we all learned to live more green from Stacy’s
God had surely blessed our Stacy with creativity and imagination that she graciously shared with us through her many facets of artwork. She often gave her artwork as gifts and left us with a brightly painted beautiful collage of drawings on her bedroom ceiling. At Paynesville High School, Stacy left her “trademark” art talents on both wall and ceiling tile paintings. She truly enjoyed her art classes.
Stacy had a passion for nutrition and was studying Community Health at St. Cloud State University as a full-time student. She taught so many of us to eat healthier and was determined to make an impact on changing the way our society eats. Her knowledge of organic foods andcooking with them was amazing for a young person. She also had a great taste for selecting different types of tea and sharing them with family and friends.
When Stacy was 15, she suffered from depression. She had many of the depression signs. We obtained medical care for her, including counseling, which she participated in for some time. We as parents were told the depression was most likely a chemical imbalance because of her body going through changes related to adolescence. We were told other times of her life that we would have to watch her were pregnancies and menopause. Stacy didn’t like the way her medication made her feel so after a number of months she was weaned off of them. We talked about depression on a regular basis with her and she always seemed to be doing fine. She changed to a very healthy diet, did Yoga, meditation, and exercise which all made her feel good. We all believe she was on the right track.
Friday, February 3, 2012 started out like any other weekday. With only one bathroom in the home, Stacy and her mom were sharing morning bathroom time and discussing the day’s events. Stacy was volunteering at the local nursing home for the morning and then going to
St. Cloud for some shopping in the afternoon. Stacy returned home later that evening. All of us were home (Mom, Dad, Ryan and his wife Ashley, and Luke and his girlfriend Samantha). We all said, “Hi Stacy”, as she walked in the house that Friday evening as we always did. She
seemed fine and continued upstairs to her bedroom with her packages from shopping. Also that day, Stacy had received a package in the mail that she had been waiting for. Her dad knew she would be anxious to open the package so he brought it up to her room about a half hour
after she got home. The rest of us had started playing games and could soon hear dad’s cries for help. After our attempts to save her with the help of the 911 operator, the local rescue crew, and then the local hospital after being transported we were just too late. Our beautiful
daughter had continued her journey on to heaven. In her bedroom, laid the clothes she was planning on packing for a weekend in Duluth to visit a friend. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
Stacy demonstrated a real zest for life, which made her sudden death so shocking and unbelievable. It left many questions without answers, a knot in our stomachs, and a huge ache in our hearts. She had a huge heart and we know she wouldn’t want us to be sad. We miss
Stacy dearly and she’s in our thoughts daily. We try to find contentment in knowing that she’s at peace and in God’s loving care and that we will forever treasure the many blessings she gave us.
Stacy was always so willing to help others and so by sharing her story, we hope it may help someone else. We encourage anyone who thinks they are suffering from depression or know of another person suffering to please seek help and get as much information on depression as you can. With Stacy, we thought that her depression would go away. With the information that we were given, we understood the depression could come back again but only during times of her life when there were significant hormonal changes occurring. After Stacy committed suicide, we later learned that in some cases it will always be present because of a chemical imbalance in the brain. A person with a chemical imbalance will need to be monitored and treated like many other life long illnesses. By making more awareness we hope that more will be done in the area of research and treatment for mental illnesses.
Stacy’s Quote: “Remember Forever, Forever Remember”
We love you Angel Girl Stacy!
Dad (Dennis), Mom (Betty), Ryan, Luke
2012 Featured Families:  Amy Grace Goerger, Christopher Ryan Gothier and Jonathon James Robbins 
AMY GRACE GOERGER 10/8/1980 - 11/9/2009
 This is Amy's last picture.  It was taken the day before she passed away.  
                        She is with her neice & nephew.
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Amy's time here with us was too short.  Unfortunately in her twenties, Amy struggled with depression and bipolar disorder.  She suffered with the symptoms of her mental illnesses day to day, but yet did her best to not let it affect the ones around her.  She kept a lot of the stresses and burdens of these disorders to herself.  Amy did everything she could to try to lead a "normal life".  She saw doctors, went to therapists, and took the medications recommended with hopes that it was the answer.  However at the age of 29, Amy lost the battle of her depression and bipolar disorder.  She decided to end the battle for reasons we will never know.  She did not leave us a note, leaving us with many questions and very few answers.  All we ask now is that she is at peace.
Amy is and will always be remembered for the kind and caring person she was.  She was a great aunt to her niece and nephew.  She loved giving them little gifts and spending time with them.  However at holidays she would get just as excited as the kids to open gifts at Christmas time or find eggs at Easter.  It's one of the things we miss the most.
Amy loved her job working as a finance director for the city of Rockville.  She was so excited when she got the position and enjoyed the challenges that came with it.  
Other things that Amy really enjoyed in life was her car - she loved going for drives which involved another love of hers and that was coffee.  She was no stranger to the local Starbucks locations!
We miss Amy so much and think of her daily!  She was a wonderful daughter, sister, aunt and friend!
May she rest in peace!
We love you Amy!
Love your family,
Dad (Renee), Mom, Mark, Lisa (Tim), Makayla and Spencer
Christopher with two of his favorite people - brothers Mitchell and Matt in November of 1999
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I thought it would be so easy to sit down and try to capture what Christopher meant to us and how he contributed to the world we live in.  This turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated.
Christopher was a very kind and compassionate person.  He was the type of person that would give the shirt off his back to someone in need.
He was a charmer with the girls, always having one waiting on the sidelines.
Christopher loved his brothers.  Many hours were spent in the basement with all the furniture moved, wrestling with Matt while Mitchell admired his brothers from his walker.  Christopher loved to play with his little brother.  I remember the day Christopher as a new driver, decided it was his duty as a big brother to take Matt for a ride in his new car.  The passengers door and the telephone pole in the alley behind our house will never be the same.
Christopher was very proud of his native american heritage.  He showed this through the many dream catchers he made and reading he did about his ancestors.
Christopher struggled with the ups and downs of depression for a long time.  That seems like such a simple statement however, this is where the complexity of mental illness starts to consume the very being that makes them who they were to begins with.
Not a day goes by that Christopher is not thought of and remembered.  Sometimes with a smile and sometimes with a tear.  We all try to remember him for the person he was and not to focus on the way he died.  The hardest part is that he was left with no other choice other thanto take his own life.
Every day research is done and cures are found for thousands of ailments yet we continue to lose precious lives because of a lack of education and research.
Christopher would be proud to know that his suffering may help to save someone else's life.
Gone but Never Forgotten.....
Mom, Dad, Matthew and Mitchell
JONATHON JAMES ROBBINS 3/7/1988 - 4/28/29-2010
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Although Jonathon may not be physically here with us, we know he is still around.  We took the penguin version of himself with us on vacation with us to Florida and recreated some fun memories we had with Jonathon when we went to Florida in 2006.
So much of what we have talked about Jonathon since his death has been his illness.  Although it was such a short period in his life, it was definitely and obviously the most life changing for us all.  There was so much more toJonathon than that.
He grew up the absolute sunshine in my life!  I would sing 'You are my Sunshine' to him all the time when he was little and I never stopped calling him my sunshine.  Imagine the wonderful surprise I found after he died, when listening to his IPod, 'You are my Sunshine' came on.  It was the much cooler Ray Charles version, but it was 'You are my Sunshine' nonetheless!  I like to think that when he heard that song, it reminded him of his mommy and my love for him.
Jonathon was always so smart.  He loved being smart and constantly tried to learn more and better himself.  It was no surprise to me that one day at the age of 20; he decided he wanted to learn piano.  We bought him a keyboard and some books and he taught himself.  He loved art and drawing and became quite good at it.  He loved writing in his journal.  Of course my favorite passage from his journal is "I owe a lot of who I am to my mother".
I loved Jonathon's quirkiness and his attention to detail.  When you got a gift from Jonathon, you know how much thought he put into it.  He would spend hours finding the perfect gift, wrapping paper and card.  In his poor college days, we got the most beautifully wrapped present.  It had gold wrapping paper and a HUGE gold bow.  Opening it, I went through layers of tissue paper and inside there was a Christmas card - it read "Merry Christmas Family! From Jonathon".  It still can crack me up and make me laugh.  I kept that card and that big bow that was on top.  It's with my other treasures, which include cards that he painstakingly made out of my stamping supplies, thanking me for doing his laundry or telling me Happy Mother's Day.
One of the things that hurts the most with Jonathon being gone, is that Arianna and Jordan lost their big brother.  He loved them so much!  I would have to remind him sometimes that I was the parent because he always was much stricter with them than I was.  He was so protective.  We found a drawing that he did when he was little of a burning house that was labeled FIRE SAFDY.  It showed the layout of our house, complete with Arianna's room and her crib.  Then outside it showed Jonathon with a parachute holding Arianna and floating her down to safety.  Arianna now carries it as a rememberance in tattoo form on her back.  Penguins represent Jonathon and Arianna and the parachute shows a yellow ribbon.  He always knew Arianna and Jordan had great potential.  I miss having him support me when it comes to encouraging them that they are capable of great things.
I always told Jonathon "No matter where you go, no matter what you do, I will always love you!"  That still holds true today, but I would like to end my story with one of Jonathon's journal entries.  I wish it for all of you.
We love and miss you Jonathon.
Mom, Dad, Arianna and Jordan