Where are they now? Doing big things for little ones
Editor’s note: This is the third in an ongoing series of stories on Perham High School graduates who now live out of the area and are involved in unique and interesting things.
“Out of difficulties, grow miracles.” –Jean de La Bruyere, French philosopher
Sometimes, the tiniest feet leave the largest footprints.
Little Ella Krumwiede is a precious example of this. Born prematurely at 24 weeks, Ella weighed barely more than a pound at birth.
Though she was very sick, she loved to wiggle her toes, squeeze fingers, cuddle, and dance to “Twinkle Twinkle.”
Her loved ones say she was a fighter, and full of love. But sadly, after 83 days in a neonatal intensive care unit, her fight was over.
The love she shared, however, goes on.
Despite Ella’s tragically short time on earth, she managed to leave a lasting mark. Her spirit and her story have served as an inspiration to many, who now carry on good works in her name.
Shortly after Ella’s death, her parents, Ryan and Taryn Krumwiede, decided to honor their daughter’s memory by giving back to the place that they felt had given them so much – the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, where Ella had been a patient.
“After she passed away, we wanted to give back, and it only seemed fitting to help other families like ours who spend an extended stay in the NICU with their new babies,” the couple wrote in an email to the Focus.
“The very first time we donated was only a few weeks after Ella had died. We dropped off blankets to the hospital, and seeing how excited the nurses were to have cute blankets to wrap the new babies in was the only inspiration we needed to do more.”
After that first donation, they said, things snowballed. They started to make more donations – sometimes of blankets, sometimes of other ‘comforts of home,’ such as CD players to listen to lullabies on, children’s books to read to the babies, and comfortable chairs to cuddle into.
Before long, the Krumwiedes got the idea to start a nonprofit, and in 2009, Ella’s Halo was founded.
Over the years, Ella’s Halo has evolved into an organization that includes Ryan, Taryn and five board members. They all work together to promote Ella’s Halo, raise funds for the cause, and stay in touch with the current needs of NICUs.
Thanks to their efforts, families of infant patients at Twin Cities area NICUs receive welcome bags containing toiletries, a notebook and pen, a water bottle and other items that might be needed during a baby’s hospital stay but that often get forgotten. Ella’s Halo provides the ‘little things’ that families appreciate having around but that hospitals don’t always have room for in their budgets.
The Krumwiedes said their charity fills a niche, and they’ve gotten positive feedback from the hospitals they work with, as well as from impacted families.
“Just knowing that others are thinking about them during a difficult time in their life... Knowing that others have been down a similar path and made it to the other side, is sometimes the strength a family needs,” they said.
Depending on what events or fundraisers are coming up for Ella’s Halo, the Krumwiedes spend anywhere from five to 20 hours a week on efforts for the nonprofit.
Recently, they’ve earned some regional recognition for their work. In November, Taryn received an award from Twin Cities news station, KARE 11, as one of their “Eleven Who Care” in 2013. This annual award series recognizes 11 volunteers who are making a real difference and giving back to their communities.
The couple’s charity work has also been featured on FOX 9 and News Talk WDAY 970, as well as in a Star Tribune article.
Born and raised in Perham, Ryan and Taryn were high school sweethearts, and dated for years before marrying in 2006. They have been living in Minneapolis for 8 years.
Perham natives may remember Ryan best as a state wrestler his senior year; Taryn (formerly Marthaler) was involved in everything from cheerleading to student council.
After graduating from high school in 1999, Ryan went on to college at North Dakota State University, while Taryn attended the University of North Dakota. Both continued on, earning their master’s degrees from schools in the Twin Cities.
Today, Taryn is a human resource/office manager for the law firm Wagner, Falconer & Judd in Minneapolis, and Ryan is an account supervisor for an ad agency called Broadhead, also in Minneapolis.
In addition to running Ella’s Halo, Ryan and Taryn both work full time. They also enjoy spending time together and with their 19-month-old daughter, Evelyn. They still make it back to Perham fairly often, especially in the summers, to visit family and friends and spend time on the lakes.
Currently, they’re gearing up for “Bowling for Babies,” a big fundraiser that they’ve been organizing for Ella’s Halo for the last five years. This year’s event will take place on May 17 from 1-4 p.m. at Park Tavern in St. Louis Park, Minn.
For tickets or more information, visit www.ellashalo.com.
“She was only here for a short time,” the couple wrote of Ella on their website, “but we hope her memory will live forever in the help we provide to other little ones.”