Last Updated on May 26, 2021 by Maggie Sutton
Minneapolis, Minnesota is home to a Level 1 trauma burn center at Hennepin Healthcare. Soon, it will be the home to the nation’s first dedicated first responder and pediatric burn healing center as well.
The non-profit Firefighters for Healing broke ground on May 19th, 2021 for a 12-suite facility as part of a larger mixed-use commercial and residential building. The Homes for Heroes Foundation kicked off the fundraising efforts with a $100,000 donation for the naming rights to one of the 12 suites.
Jake LaFerriere, Executive Director and also the Founder of Firefighters for Healing, was a second generation Minneapolis firefighter. Jake was severely burned on duty in 2010 and needed long-term transitional care.
“Firefighters for Healing provides support and resources for burn survivors, firefighters and first responders in ways insurance companies and caregivers are unable.” LaFerriere said of the mission of Firefighters for Healing. “So we kind of fill in the gaps where those gaps are. Whether that’s housing, whether that’s pediatric healing with our burn camp, whether that’s patient contact, boots on the floor at the hospital helping these families, bringing them stuff they don’t have because their house burned down. Gas cards, food, all those kind of things.”
Through his stay at Hennepin Healthcare, he met numerous burn victims and their families, and came to understand the desperate need for such a facility. As far as creating a facility, it took longer than Jake would have liked to locate the ideal spot.
“Well, when you stack rank the factors off the get go, it has to be proximity. You have to be close for these parents and these patients and survivors. They’re not going to leave the beds of their injured child if it’s too far away. They’re going to just stay there.” Jake said of the search for the perfect location.
“So, we needed to map out essentially a three block radius of the hospital, and then we literally went to every possible, potential opportunity and talked to building owners and developers, and then we ended up, after four years of being told “no”, with George [Sherman]. So, our hopes are to have skyway connectivity. What that means then is our families won’t need to go outside and deal with the elements of the cold.”
Sherman Associates is the property development company who had a property in the proximity. But, they also shared in the vision of Firefighters for Healing. CEO of Sherman Associates George Sherman also spoke at the groundbreaking of the positive impact a facility like this will make on Minneapolis.
Firefighters for Healing currently has 5 similar apartments blocks away from Hennepin Healthcare. The new Healing Center will consist of 12 fully furnished suites just two blocks away.
These units will be used by the families of burn patients to stay at long term. The center will host families from across the upper Midwest, and will offer amenities like full kitchens and laundry. The floor will have shared spaces, like therapy rooms and relaxation spaces. All of this is at no charge to the families or the patients.
“The burn center is going to have a fabulous way to help the families of these burn victims who need places to stay, who really run into troubles when they have to drop everything they’re doing to attend to their loved ones here that are coming into the burn center.” Robert Specht, Chief Financial Officer at Homes for Heroes and Board Member of the Homes for Heroes Foundation, said of the groundbreaking.
“The Homes for Heroes Foundation is making a significant contribution to this. We are sponsoring and paying for one of the 12 burn center units, that the victims will stay in and be able to be with their family. They’ll have things like local firefighters come in and cook meals and things like that. It’s really a win-win, this is what Homes for Heroes and The [Homes for Heroes] Foundation is all about. Everything we do is based on this mission and cause.”
Grants and donations provided by the Homes for Heroes Foundation are made possible by their Circle of Giving. Their network of real estate professionals are also committed to providing savings to hero groups like firefighters and first responders.
Amy Carlson, Director of Operations and Communications for the Hennepin Healthcare Foundation, explains that burn injuries can be different from other injuries when healing.
“The injuries of a burn are more complicated than other types of injuries, particularly when children are involved. You can imagine the scarring that a child receives from a burn and the physiological impact, the social impact that they’ll be dealing with the rest of their lives.” Carlson said of this type of injury.
“To be able to see themselves in not only their physician who has his own burn scars and Jake who has his, but to come to this transitional healing center and be with other family members, in addition to firefighters, to be there and to have this opportunity for lodging to be close to a loved one, to see other people who are going through the same struggle, I’m sure will help with families and their loved ones with healing and the opportunity to understand they’re not alone.”
Homes for Heroes Foundation is committed to the healing of our firefighters and first responders. There is healing that needs to be done beyond what a doctor or hospital can provide. This is where the Healing Center comes in, covering what insurance and doctors can not.
The facility plans to open to its first residents at the end of 2022.