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Stedman Graham lends support to Park Nicollet Foundation Gala

Author, educator and entrepreneur talks trauma, grief and the importance of community

November 1, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS – More than 1,000 Park Nicollet Foundation supporters combined to raise over $675,000 for our community programs at the 38th annual Spotlight Gala. The event took place on Oct. 6, 2018 at the Minneapolis Hilton. This year’s Gala program shined a special spotlight on Growing Through Grief. This program provides in-school grief support for students who have gone through the loss of a loved one. It is wholly funded by Park Nicollet Foundation donors.

The highlight of the night was special guest speaker Stedman Graham. He has authored many books. And he also inspires audiences all over the world. Graham was raised with two brothers with developmental disabilities. They motivated him to study social work and education. Much of Graham’s work involves helping people grow and build resilience. A big part of that is inspiring community action that supports and creates opportunities for youth.

Here Graham explains why he believes support for community programs like Growing Through Grief is vital:

Why are you lending your support to the 2018 Park Nicollet Foundation Spotlight Gala?

Graham: Children’s health and well-being are key issues for our communities today. And Park Nicollet Foundation has taken on these issues in a big way. It takes all of us – the entire community – to deliver solutions in the way each community needs them. Everyone needs to be on the same page, working for the same goals. Park Nicollet Foundation is the kind of organization I see around the world doing this work. They’re bringing communities together and having an impact on these issues.

Image: stedman Gram Stedman Graham was the 2018 Park Nicollet Foundation Spotlight Gala special guest speaker. See more photos from the event.

The Gala is shining a special spotlight on the Foundation’s Growing Through Grief program. This in-school grief support program is for elementary, middle and high school students who have experienced the loss of a loved one. How have you seen trauma, like the death of a loved one impact children?

Graham: It is important for us to step up and help kids through hard places in life. In my work, I see kids growing up with trauma. I see them struggle when they don’t have access to support. And I see them flourish when they do.

When a child experiences a death or trauma and does not have support, the narrative they create about what happened and their emotions are less likely to be accurate. Shame, fear and low-self esteem can take over and not allow that child to move forward. It doesn’t matter how smart someone is, if they haven’t processed their trauma, they will always come back to it.

In order to reach kids with trauma and grief, we have to make personal connections with them. We have to be willing to help them investigate their life, rebuild who they are, and learn resilience. Growing Through Grief’s purpose is to do just this. They empower youth to understand the grief, process it in their own way, all while providing the guardrails necessary to help keep them headed in the right direction.

How do you think programs like Growing Through Grief help build resilience and create opportunities for young people?

Graham: Our ultimate responsibility to this world is to take care of and set a path for young people in our community. I visit people and organizations all over the world supporting young people. Park Nicollet Foundation and Growing Through Grief are doing it right. Their programs are cutting edge. Partnering to build a community around kids who have experienced enormous trauma is what can guide them to resilience.

Without organizations like Park Nicollet Foundation and programs like Growing Through Grief, people and communities don’t always know how to respond to trauma and grief. These programs give people a process that is supported and reinforced by the community.

If a kid has a community, they have a guide that can help them learn to cope with their emotions as they develop, grow and their identity changes. This helps them understand their true self. And it sets them on the path to fulfilling their potential and leading a healthy life.

Learn more about the Growing Through Grief program. Or, donate to the Growing Through Grief fund.

Save the date! The 39th annual Park Nicollet Foundation Spotlight Gala will take place Nov. 2, 2019.

Image: Andrea Walsh with PN foundation Beth Warner HealthPartners President & CEO Andrea Walsh, Park Nicollet Foundation Executive Director Beth Warner and Gala special guest speaker Stedman Graham.

About Park Nicollet Foundation

Park Nicollet Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and receives more than $5 million in charitable contributions annually from individuals, corporations and foundations to improve the health and well-being of patients, families, and community through partnerships and philanthropy. For more information, visit

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