Sunshine News

Time to register!

It’s December and you know what that means….time to register for Sunshine Fest of course! Ok, ok so that may not be the first thing that comes to mind as the calendar turns to December. However, the busy-bees at Sunshine Fest have been hard at work getting a great registration system in place. Those who have participated before will notice some changes. You can register as an individual or you have the option of adding a team name to your registration information. Remember…the more the merrier at this event!

Brittany Dvorak (pictured on left below) is spearheading registration at the 2015 event. She’s a veteran volunteer and will be ensuring things go as smoothly as possible the morning of February 7th.

DSC_0028“I joined Sunshine Memorial Foundation and their walk because I love the ideas and goals they have to help make a difference in individuals lives! With having endured cancer treatment and all side effects that come with that, I have a true connection for the changes in life a patient has to adjust too. Realizing how many things I took for granted in life before beating cancer really opened my eyes on every aspect of life. There is no way I can thank everyone that was with me on my journey so I want to turn around and give back as much as I can. Sunshine Memorial Foundation was a great opportunity to do just that. I love the idea of Grand Forks having a hospitality home as such a house helped my family tremendously during my journey. The hospitality house for me was the place of good memories and the hospital was the place of bad memories.”

Now your assignment is to start recruiting your team and head over to Sunshine Memorial Foundation’s homepage to register. Click here!

Until next time,

Stacy Signature for blog

How can you volunteer?

Well…its Thanksgiving week. At my house, we’re busy making plans to see family and eat our favorite dishes. This time of year reminds me to think of all the blessings in my life. While I’m so fortunate in many ways, the opportunity to volunteer has always provided special blessings to me. This sentiment seems to be shared by so many Sunshine Fest committee members. Ann-Marie Morrow is a Recruitment Leader. She shared this with me.

“I became involved in Sunshine Fest when my friends Van and Dee Larson encouraged me to volunteer back in 2010.  Back then there were just a handful of us sitting around a table sharing ways to honor the memory of their daughter, Shannon.  The first Sunshine Fest was a success and we were off and running, literally…brrr!  I feel so fortunate to be able to continue working with such a wonderful group of volunteers and I’m proud to participate and share in the Larson’s vision to build a hospitality home that will help so many in our local and surrounding communities. “

This year you can quickly and easily sign-up to volunteer at the 5th Annual Sunshine Fest on February 7, 2015. Follow this link to the online volunteer registration. There are several different options to choose from. The many pictures I’ve seen from previous years’ events include lots of smiles. So I have a feeling your face will include a smile too!

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday filled with family, friends, great food, wonderful memories and, of course, sunshine!

Until next time,

Stacy Signature for blog


From a small group to committees

When the idea for this event first came about, it was December 2010 and Shannon’s birthday was coming up. Her family wanted to remember and celebrate her, so they decided to pull together an event. They had about five weeks to make it happen.

Now as we head into the 5th annual event the planning takes a few months instead of weeks. The planning process has also grown to involve five committees.

The Marketing & Media committee is putting together all the advertising and media. You’ll be seeing much of their work early in 2015. Don Anderson is the Marketing & Media Team Leader. He shared this about his involvement in Sunshine Fest.

1662622_698531396858494_2072232406_n“I have had the opportunity to work with the Sunshine Fest Media and Marketing team now for three years. My first introduction to the Sunshine project was when Van Larson invited Ellen and I to a meeting for the Sunshine Fest/home. From that meeting I began to realize the importance of such a facility and what it would mean to so many families both in and outside our community. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience. I’ve met so many wonderful and enthusiastic people, who are so willing to volunteer their time, and talents to help make Sunshine Fest and the future Hospitality Home a reality. Each year I see more and more people becoming involved in the many facets of Sunshine Fest and fundraising projects as we all work on building the blessing this home will bring to so many. I want to thank everyone for their past support and participation in Sunshine Fest and hope to see you on February 7th for the 5th annual Sunshine Fest at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Together we can make this event bigger and better than ever.” 


Talking with business partners in our community is the Sponsorship Committee. Many businesses will be supporting the event with in-kind donations or funds. Some of these businesses will also be present at the health & wellness fair. If your business would like to be involved please contact Joellen Cariveau at



There’s a group working on Raffles & Prizes and I look forward to seeing what they are putting together. Raffle tickets are currently available at the Altru Gift Shop or contact Lanette Swendseid at



Another committee of Recruitment Leaders is beginning to build teams and increase participation at the event in February. Doesn’t it look like fun to be on a Sunshine Fest team???


“I became involved with Sunshine Fest for several reasons….I have been a Labor and Delivery nurse for 29 years and have seen many families struggle with where to stay when they have a preterm baby or mom is sick and requires a longer hospital stay.  Most of the time it is unexpected and a financial burden to stay at a hotel.  I have also personally experienced this need when my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer and we needed to travel 5 hours away to receive specialized care.   We received overwhelming support from our friends and neighbors during Mike’s illness and this is an opportunity for me to give back and help others who are in need.  There are so many that could benefit from a facility of this nature we need to make this a reality for our community!” – Karla Miller

Finally, overseeing all the action is an Event Logistics coordinator. You may have seen Richard Dafoe literally running in a past Sunshine Fest. This year he’ll be ‘running’ things behind the scenes.




Until next time,

Stacy Signature for blog


Here’s a little quiz for you!

Question #1…

Q: How many people participated in the 1st Annual More Sunshine Walk in 2011?

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A: 102 participants

How did you do? Have you been reading along?


Question #2…

Q: How many volunteers will be involved in the 2015 Sunshine Fest event?







A: There are 38 volunteers currently working on various committees to get the event ready. Additionally, it will take about 75 people to make this event happen on February 7th!


Remarkable, isn’t it? Five years later and there are now more people making this event happen than participated in the first walk. A few weeks ago I attended the Volunteer Kick-Off meeting. There are several committees this year and each has a chairperson. The chairpeople each took a turn updating the group on that committee’s work. The thing that struck me after this meeting was the passion and excitement these people have for Sunshine Fest. They are all giving their time and talents to support a wonderful event.

Overseeing the work of the various committees is Jerilyn Rethemeier. I asked her to share a bit about how she got involved in this event. Here’s what she says…


“I became aware of Sunshine Fest while working with Donovan Larson, currently the CEO/President of the Sunshine Memorial Foundation.  I started out with registration 4 years ago, co-chaired the event last year, and am the chair of this year’s event. The hospitality home is the vision of the Larson family to honor Shannon. What a beautiful way to remember a loved one by giving to others.  

Altru employees tell of families sleeping in hallways and waiting rooms or cars in the parking lot because they have nowhere else to go while their loved ones are in the hospital, cannot afford a hotel or meals outside their home.  The hospitality home will offer the home away from home to deal with their physical needs while they deal with the emotional decisions and tolls associated with an extended hospital stay of a family member.  

We are blessed to be a blessing to others.  My hope is that the hospitality home will be a blessing to many in the surrounding ND and MN communities.” 



As Jerilyn and the other 37 people currently serving on committees have done, I encourage you all to get involved…whether that be through helping out or participating in this event. There will be some more volunteer opportunities coming for this February event so stay tuned. I’ll share how you can get involved as soon as details are finalized.

Until then, enjoy the first few flakes of snow and the sunshine in between!

Stacy Signature for blog

Where do the proceeds go?

So I’ve been hearing and learning about Sunshine Fest in recent weeks. Volunteers and participants involved in past events speak about the event with excitement and passion. As they speak, you can almost ‘feel’ the fun you’ll have when you participate. Doesn’t it look like fun?


Then there’s the added benefit that you’re supporting some great charitable causes.

In January 2011, the Sunshine Memorial Foundation hosted its 1st Annual More Sunshine Walk and Fun Run. The event had 102 walkers and runners and raised over $8,000 with proceeds to be split between three causes including: the Sunshine Memorial Foundation hiker and hydration awareness programs, the Special Olympics of Grand Forks, and the Dewey Kvidt Memorial Duathlon event which sponsored a yoga room at Choice Health and Fitness.

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The 2nd Annual More Sunshine Walk and Fun Run held in 2012 hosted around 225 participants and rose over $27,000 with proceeds to be split between three causes, including: The Sunshine Memorial Foundation hiker and hydration awareness programs, the proposed Sunshine Hospitality Home Project, and Brittany Dvorak and Family to sponsor a basketball court at Choice Health and Fitness.


In January of 2013, the Foundation hosted Sunshine Fest, including the 3rd Annual More Sunshine Walk & Fun Run. The event raised estimated $75,000 total while promoting and with all proceeds benefitting the proposed Sunshine Hospitality Home Project. There were approximately 900 attendees.


This past January 2014, more than 900 people participated in the 4th Annual Sunshine Fest walk/run event and over $80,000 was raised with all proceeds going to the Sunshine Hospitality Home. Once again the growth continued.

The proceeds from the upcoming 5th Annual Sunshine Fest 2015 will once again benefit the Sunshine Hospitality Home project. The Home will benefit countless patients and families coming to Grand Forks for medical treatment. This home will be unique in that it will serve people with all medical issues seeking care from any provider.




Based on the excitement and determination of those volunteering to plan this event, I think it’s very likely the growth in participation and proceeds will continue. You’re not going to want to miss it…so raise your hand if you’ll be there!



Why the blog?

Toward the end of the summer I got an email from a former colleague, Jena Pierce. She was happily working for the Sunshine Memorial Foundation. It had been awhile since we’d found time to catch up so we enjoyed a long lunch that included lots of laughs. Along the way I learned more about the Foundation and its work. I also got the feeling she was going to try to recruit me for something!


Over the next few days we exchanged emails and she mentioned the idea of a blog. Would I be interested in writing the “secrets behind Sunshine Fest”? I thought about it for another few days. Then I emailed back.


To: Jena

From: Stacy

“Yes! Let’s talk again soon.”

 It didn’t take her long to reply…


To: Stacy

From: Jena

“You’ve made my day!”


“While looking forward to my first Sunshine Fest I was curious about the ins and outs of such a big, annual event,” said Jena. “I spoke to a lot of people who had heard of the event but wanted to learn more. Knowing Stacy is a great writer who had a personal blog, I thought she would be a great asset to our marketing and media committee as a blog writer. And I was right!”

I guess the rest is history because you are now reading the blog. We met and discussed ideas for content. I quickly learned there are so many different aspects to Sunshine Fest that it didn’t take us long to fill a docket of posts. Our topics will cover registration details, sponsorship, volunteers and much, much more! We’ve also left some room for changes as details are ever-evolving and new ideas are always coming up.

The very first Sunshine Fest in 2010 included about 80 runners and walkers. There were over 900 participants in 2014. Let’s see how many of us can find some extra Sunshine in 2015!


Ready, Set, Go!

Hello! You may or may not have heard about Sunshine Fest. If you’re like me, you’ve heard about it. You’ve watched news reports on it. You’ve read newspaper articles about it. You’ve participated in it or you’ve wished you had.

Planning is already underway for the 5th Annual 2015 Sunshine Fest which will take place on February 7th (from 9 a.m.-noon). It’s going to include a 3K Indoor Walk, 5K Outdoor Fun Run and a Health and Wellness Fair.

A little history…Shannon “Sunshine” Larson died September 8, 2007, in Mesa, Arizona, of natural causes related to heat exhaustion, while hiking in Usery Mountain Park. Shannon was 31 years old and just beginning a new chapter in her life. You can read Shannon’s full story here.


After coping with Shannon’s death in 2007, her family wanted to make a difference in the town she grew up in. They started the Sunshine Memorial Foundation and began an annual event called the “More Sunshine Annual Walk and Fun Run”, a.k.a. Sunshine Fest! Sunshine Fest is the Sunshine Memorial Foundation’s annual event that each year helps to raise money for charitable causes. The event consists of a 5K outdoor fun run and an indoor 3K walk, a health and wellness fair, music, fun activities and dozens of amazing prizes!! This year all money raised will be going to the Sunshine Memorial Foundation in support of the Proposed Sunshine Hospitality Home!

Sunshine Fest Logo 2015

My name is Stacy and I am a wife and mom of 2 from Grand Forks. I’m new to this event and the process of making it happen. In the coming weeks I’ll bring you peeks at what is going on behind the scenes to bring this incredibly fun event to our region.

Mark your calendars now because everyone could use a little more sunshine…especially in February!

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