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Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont: Partnership to aid cancer patients

FAIRMONT — During a news conference Monday afternoon, Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont announced a new partnership with the Jonathan Zierdt Cancer Fund meant to benefit cancer patients in Fairmont and surrounding communities.

Tracy Culbertson, oncology nurse manager at Mayo, shared the significance of the JZ Fund and its mission to supply cancer patients with care boxes.

“In my role as the nurse manager I see people everyday that are touched by cancer and it is an impactful experience for all of us, especially that patient,” said Culbertson. “Having this little bit of light in the dark days is very important and these boxes that the JZ Cancer Fund allow us to use with our patients helps us bring that gesture of support and a little bit of joy. We’re so happy to be partnering with the JZ Cancer Fund and more happy to expand their services to Fairmont.”

In January of 2018, the Jonathan Zierdt Cancer Fund launched its signature program, the JZ Caring Box, which donates specially designed care packages to medical provider partners for distribution to patients diagnosed with cancer. Each JZ Caring Box contains items to provide support and comfort, as well as access to important information and resources for cancer patients, their families and caregivers. Since the program launched, the Jonathan Zierdt Cancer Fund has distributed more than 1,000 JZ Caring Boxes to cancer patients in the Mankato area.

Tami Paulsen, director of the Jonathan Zierdt Cancer Fund, shared the story behind the organization.

“Jonathan was a beloved and greatly admired and respected community leader in greater Mankato,” she said. “He was the CEO of Greater Mankato Growth for many years.

“When he was first diagnosed with both kidney and prostate cancer in 2013, he decided to use his public position to live his cancer journey very publicly in an effort to help educate people in the community about cancer, how to live with and deal with it and also to increase public awareness about cancer.

“He was always full of life, even at the most difficult times. His kidney cancer went into remission in 2014, but his prostate cancer turned out to be a more difficult foe. His battle continued in 2017 when Jonathan and his wife Ginger gathered a group of community leaders together.”

It was that group that became the Jonathan Zierdt Cancer Fund, a donor-advised fund of the Mankato Area Foundation. It’s mission is to raise community awareness and provide support for those touched by cancer. The group’s vision is to help change the cancer journey.

“With what the reality of cancer is, we knew our mission was really important,” Paulsen continued. “One out of two Minnesotans will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. Everyday, more than three of our friends, neighbors or family members receive a cancer diagnosis in Southern Minnesota.

“At least one of those will die of cancer each day, so given that and our mission, we next needed to adress how best we could help people and support them. After a lot of thought, many meetings, and considerable input, the idea of our caring box program was born.”

Items in the care boxes include a custom knit blanket, a cookbook, information from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Cancer Alliance, a journal and pen, messages of support, and a gift envelope containing a list of resources and a gift card. The gift cards are being provided locally by Profinium Bank.

“We are so pleased to be able to expand our Caring Box program to the Fairmont area,” Paulsen said. “Our strong partnership with Mayo Clinic Health System, and the opening of their new Lutz Cancer Center, makes it possible for us to touch even more people at one of the most difficult times of their lives, and provide support to those diagnosed with cancer in the Fairmont region.”

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