No one wants a child to be hospitalized any day of the year, let alone on Christmas. But as part of one of the largest children’s health care organizations in the United States, the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of St. Paul is a home for the holidays for many Minnesota kids. To help make the season—and year—a little brighter for the families and patients, the community has rallied over the years to raise funds for the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, of which the St. Paul hospital is a part.
The North Oaks Children’s Hospital Guild is one of 17 groups that have taken on the mission to support and fund quality health care for all children, regardless of ability to pay. Although the guild is now 35 members strong and has been together for more than 50 years, it was the generous spirit of one doctor many years ago that spurred others to come together in this effort.
Dr. Walter Ramsey opened the doors to the first children’s hospital in St.Paul in 1924. He believed that health care should be affordable for everyone, so he initiated a policy where patients only had to pay what they could afford, with a minimum of $2.50 per day. Shortly after a move to a larger facility, the Great Depression hit, and Dr. Ramsey was faced with fewer paying patients and rising costs; that’s when the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) was born to help defray the costs for struggling families. For the next few decades there was much fundraising, including the advent of the annual Children’s Hospital Ball in 1949, which is still popular today.
In 1962, the community stepped up again in the form of the first neighborhood group, the North Oaks Children’s Hospital Guild, to supplement the CHA’s efforts. Throughout the past 50 years the guild has contributed more than $800,000, thanks to the efforts of many dedicated women, including the late Mary Quinn, the guild member with the most years of service (more than 25). The CHA directs these funds to a variety of departments and programs throughout the hospitals, from the music therapy program and animal-assisted therapy to the neonatal intensive care
The guild’s “secret ingredient” is their ever-popular annual Holiday Home Tour, Boutique & Luncheon, which brings in around 1,200 guests, raises around $30,000 a year and jump-starts the holiday season. For at least the past 25 years, the weekend before Thanksgiving marks a time to celebrate in North Oaks, with a Christmas boutique filled with local artisans and vendors, a buffet lunch at the golf course and a couple of home tours to inspire the holiday decorating spirit. With all proceeds going directly to the St. Paul Children’s Hospital, it’s the perfect reason to get some Christmas shopping done.
“Some people will spend the entire day, arriving in the morning to shop at the boutique,” says Kathy Carlson, former guild president and long-time member. “People come from all over the Twin Cities and rural areas.”
It’s no surprise that people travel from all over the state to enjoy the opportunity to peek inside some beautiful homes. Every year the guild picks two to three homes to feature as part of the event, and buses chauffeur guests from house to house, then back to the North Oaks Golf Club throughout the day.
For the past 10 years, Mary Bevan of Lexington Floral has had the privilege of decorating many of the gorgeous homes, from mantels, staircases and custom-designed Christmas trees. But her favorite element of the weekend is simply, as she puts it, “working with all of the women from the North Oaks Guild and being a part of it all.”
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
WHAT: Holiday Home Tour, Luncheon
WHERE: North Oaks Golf Club, 54 E. Oaks Road, North Oaks
WHEN: 9 a.m.–4 p.m., November 22; 9 a.m.–3 p.m., November 23
COST: Home tour tickets are $30, luncheon tickets are $22. Reservations required for lunch; call 651.484.8585. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 651.481.6729 or online at northoakschaguild1.org.