Sunshine News

Shannon’s Story

Can you believe it is already December? It’s crazy how fast the year has gone by! We’re starting to amp up for Sunshine Fest!

Ever wonder of how the Sunshine Memorial Foundation and Sunshine Fest came to be?

Shannon “Sunshine” Larson was born and raised in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the daughter of Van and Dee Larson. Shannon attended the University of North Dakota and got a job at Ecolab after graduation. In the fall of 2006, she moved to Kazakhstan, where she taught Business English, tutored students in English usage, was a member of an International Hiking Club, and participated in many philanthropic activities. While there, she and her fiancé, Matt Morrison, traveled extensively, including several weeks in Indonesia.

Shannon had a passion for living life to its fullest and was a ray of sunshine. Spending time with family and friends and traveling were her main interests. Her winning smile, compassionate and helping nature, generosity, and sense of humor, touched the lives of all those around her. Whether you had a long-term friendship or just met Shannon, she had such a charm and genuineness about her that she seemed to captivate you, and would always connect with a wink and a smile!

Shannon and Matt moved to the Phoenix area in 2007. On September 8, 2007, Shannon died from heat exhaustion while hiking in Usery Mountain Park. Although she had done extensive hiking previously, she was unaware of the effects of the intense heat and the subsequent large quantities of water necessary under these circumstances. Shannon was 31 years old and just beginning a new chapter in her life. Perhaps her death could have been avoided if information had been available to her about the dangers of dehydration and heat stroke.

Her family created the Sunshine Memorial Foundation to honor her memory and help others just as she did. The Foundation is currently raising funds to build the Sunshine Hospitality Home which will help so many. It will provide a place to stay for those who are seeking medical treatment in Grand Forks. It will most definitely be a place that brings sunshine to many in difficult circumstances. Proceeds from the upcoming Sunshine Fest will benefit the Home.

We could all use a little more sunshine in our days. My challenge to you is to bring an extra dose of sunshine to someone else’s life this week, friend or stranger.

Until then,


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