Michael Leonard

Meet Michael Leonard

Physician Assistant at Sanford Sports Complex Acute Care and Orthopedic Fast Track Clinic, Sanford Health

For the last six years, Michael has been a physician assistant in acute care clinics in Sioux Falls. But this changed during the pandemic when Michael and his colleagues evaluated, treated and educated patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infections.

In his position, he saw firsthand the impact COVID-19 had on patients. So, when Michael found a way to help, he didn’t hesitate.

“Last summer, I stumbled upon an opportunity to give back to those affected by COVID-19 through the IRONMAN Foundation,” says Michael.

“I have raced in the past, and I had already been considering doing a longer race again,” he explains. “Then, I found out what the IRONMAN Foundation was doing for COVID-19 relief, so I immediately signed up and started training.”

IRONMAN is a long-distance triathlon race that includes swimming, cycling and running. Since 2003, the organization has helped raise more than $50 million with its charitable giveback programs, including the IRONMAN Foundation.

Through these fundraising endeavors, IRONMAN athletes like Michael can support their communities long after race day. For Michael, being able to give back to his patients made all the hard training worth it.

“I got started in racing to practice what I preached,” says Michael. “At the time, I was working in a cardiac area for a hospital in Montana, and I wanted to add more cardiovascular exercise into my everyday life.”

Michael says he transitioned from “kind of” jogging to completing a few 5Ks and 10Ks to half marathons, full marathons and eventually triathlons.

“It’s good accountability to keep me active and moving. By the time the running, the biking and the swimming are done, you’re happy you made yourself do it,” says Michael. “Before I was a PA, I did a couple of shorter triathlons. Then, when I was a student in PA school in Nevada, I did a half IRONMAN. It was a nice escape from studying.”

While still in school, Michael won a random drawing entry into a full IRONMAN race in Florida.

“I somehow managed to train while I was a full-time student. It took a lot of balance and time management, but I did it, and it felt good,” he says.

In the eight years since, Michael hadn’t done a triathlon as long as IRONMAN. That is until he finished the IRONMAN Des Moines 70.3 triathlon on June 20, 2021.

Michael completed a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run, while raising over $2,000 for COVID-19 relief to support local families.

“This wasn’t my first experience raising money for a cause. I did the New York Marathon and a couple triathlons as fundraisers, too,” he explains. “However, this race was a real nice union of my work and passion that hopefully coincides with nearing the closure of the pandemic.”

“I am proud of the work I’ve done at Sanford Health, especially during the pandemic, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve patients in our clinics and through the IRONMAN Triathlon,” he adds. “This seemed like a meaningful, positive, fulfilling and poetic way to give back.”

When Michael isn’t prepping for an endurance race, he spends his free time woodworking, enjoying coffee and relaxing at home with his two sons. He is back to providing expert acute care to patients in Sioux Falls and will be completing a half IRONMAN on Oct. 30 in Oceanside, Calif.


Kevin Maxwell

Meet Kevin Maxwell

Business Performance Specialist, Sanford Health

During soccer season, Kevin Maxwell spends many of his evenings and weekends on soccer field sidelines, coaching teams from elementary to middle school. From this vantage point, he sees firsthand the important role city parks play in creating a thriving community.

So when a seat on his community’s park board opened up in Harrisburg, South Dakota, a few years ago, he decided to submit a letter of interest.

“They responded and said, ‘We’d love to have you,’” says Kevin.

After serving on the park board for just over a year, he was appointed to fill a vacant spot on the city council. Then in April 2019, he ran unopposed before being voted city council president in June of 2020.

Harrisburg is one of South Dakota’s fastest-growing communities. The population was around 900 in 1990 and today over 7,000 people call Harrisburg home.

This presents the City Council with both unique challenges and opportunities, from the need for a new wastewater treatment plant to the creation and maintenance of new roads.

These are issues Kevin hadn’t considering yet when he moved to Harrisburg from Sioux Falls with his wife, Jana, and two sons Adam and Isaac six years ago.

“It’s been interesting to have a seat at the table and help make decisions, especially with the growth we’re having out here,” he says. “I’ve enjoyed learning about all the things that come with seeing how a city really runs.”

Kevin also serves as the city liaison to the park board along with the community’s library board and disability awareness board. As a leader, he strives to bring strong communication and collaboration to each discussion.

“What should we be doing? What could we do to make this better? And what are the things that we shouldn’t be doing anymore?” he says. “Those are the things I want to know when trying to strategically plan how to move forward.”

Kevin has never been one to shy away from a challenge. Instead, he’s always had the mentality that if he sees an opportunity to give back, he’ll try to do just that.

He started coaching soccer for the Brookings High School boys’ junior varsity team while attending South Dakota State University. He continued staying involved in soccer and after his son Adam started playing, he’s coached every year since. Then when his son Isaac was old enough to play, he became a coach for his team too.

“Those years go by quickly, so I want to embrace every opportunity I can to spend time with them and all the kids on their teams are just awesome,” he says.

Kevin aims to be a source of encouragement to help his players believe in themselves and their abilities. He hopes that by building self-confidence on the soccer field, they’ll have confidence as they become adults too.

“I always tell them that I don’t get paid to coach them, so I hope someday they will pay it forward by coaching their own boys, or something like that,” he says.

Whether it’s on the soccer field or leading a Harrisburg City Council meeting, Kevin wants to be a role model for others by giving back.

“It’s just one of those things – I really enjoy being part of the community,” he says.


Jake Kubik

Meet Jake Kubik

Major Gift Officer, Sanford Health

A few times a week, Jake Kubik’s home turns into a bakery. Out of his oven comes English muffins, baguettes and sourdough loaves of all flavors, from cinnamon raisin to cheddar olive and dark chocolate cranberry.

Jake is a major gift officer at Sanford Health in Bismarck, but he also runs Jake’s Bakes, a small, home bakery business, with his wife Erin.

“We had been making sourdough for ourselves and then for family members and as gifts,” he describes. “Then, over a period of time, they told us, you should be selling this at farmer’s markets.”

But in Lincoln, North Dakota, where the Kubik’s call home, there wasn’t a farmer’s market. So last year, Jake and Erin teamed up with another couple to start one.

Today, the farmer’s market in Lincoln has over 50 vendors that sell a variety of items.

“Farmer’s market vendors are really unique, cool people who all have entrepreneurial mindsets,” he says. “It’s really cool to be around those folks.”

During farmer’s market season, Jake bakes about 100 items each week, all sourdough-based. He also sells his bread out of their home for pickup or delivery in Lincoln after orders come in through their Facebook page.

His passion for making sourdough bread started about three years ago when Jake and Erin were looking for a hobby outside of work. At the time, they were watching a documentary on Netflix based on author Michael Pollan’s book, “Cooked.” Each episode focused on cooking with one of four elements: fire, water, air and earth.

“The episode on air focused a lot on bread and specifically sourdough bread,” Jake explains. “Everything with sourdough is made with a starter, and that’s how humans made bread until about the 1930s when commercial yeasts were developed.”

Inspired by “Cooked,” Jake used a homemade starter to make his first batch of sourdough bread.

With sourdough as the base, Jake makes a variety of bread flavors and he’s always experimenting with new ones. Before a new flavor becomes available, it gets a custom name. Jake’s cinnamon raisin bread is called the Rais’N Shine while his favorite cheddar jalapeno bread is named the Sinister.

“We make a traditional product with new-age flavors,” he says.

Currently, the Kubik’s are working on a commercial partnership with a local kitchen. They’d like to start selling Jake’s Bakes wholesale to grocery stores and restaurants.

Jake also looks for ways to use his passion for baking to give back. In February, Jake and Erin started Loaves of Love and for every loaf of bread they sold, they donated a loaf of their classic sourdough to the Heaven’s Helpers Soup Café in Bismarck.

“It’s a soup kitchen but it’s also a café in the feel and layout,” Jake describes. “When you walk in, you can sit at a table and then volunteers will let you know about what’s on the menu and bring it out. They treat people from all walks of life just as equals and as if you’re in a restaurant.”

By the end of February, Loaves of Love donated a total of 52 loaves. Inspired by how they could use Jake’s Bakes to help others, in May they matched their bread sales again and this time, donated to the United Way Emergency Homeless Shelter in Bismarck.

Helping create and build community around bread is one of Jake’s favorite aspects of Jake’s Bakes, whether that’s providing a meal to someone in need of nourishment or connecting with a new customer at a farmer’s market.

“I’ve met so many amazing people,” he says. “And people love our bread.”


Jonathan Hoffman

Meet Jonathan Hoffman

Lead Maintenance Mechanic, Sanford Health

Serving his community is important to Jonathan Hoffman. As a member of the volunteer fire department and the city council, he plays a crucial role in helping the small town he calls home.

Even before he moved to St. Leo, Minnesota, in 2013, Jonathan started getting phone calls about joining the fire crew.

“I was approached before I had the house bought,” says Jonathan, a lead maintenance mechanic at Sanford Canby in Canby, Minnesota. “If you’re young and able, they want you on the department.”

Eight years later, Jonathan serves as fire chief overseeing 17 volunteers ranging in age from 25 to 65. He spends about one hour a week doing paperwork and leads a monthly meeting for the crew.

The department covers a 5-mile radius around St. Leo (population 100) and answers mutual aid calls from other small towns in the area. Although they generally don’t get a lot of fire calls, Jonathan says they tend to get more in the summer when it’s dry.

“We don’t have a water tower, so we have to have a bunch of water on hand,” says Jonathan. “We have a big, 3,500-gallon tanker that we bring out. It’s property of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that they loaned to us.”

The fire department’s water supply is stored in cisterns and accessed at an outside fill station with an electric pump that moves 500 gallons of water a minute from the cisterns to the tanker.

Jonathan remembers his first fire call vividly. It was a basement fire, which he says is one of the worst fires to go into.

“You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. We were busting out windows trying to put the clothes dryer out,” Jonathan says. “We made a mess, but we got the fire out. The house didn’t burn down, but it had smoke and water damage.”

He also remembers an apartment fire where someone forgot to turn off their stove with a chicken baking in it. “We were banging on doors and trying to get people out of there,” says Jonathan.

No matter what, he and his crew are there to help. “We’ve had a house fire on New Year’s Eve when it was colder than heck out,” Jonathan adds.

Besides fighting fires, the crew gives back to the community in other ways. They recently teamed up with the Canby Fire Department, the Sportsman’s Club and the Porter Fire Department to sponsor a steak supper for staff members from Canby Public School and St. Peter’s Catholic School.

“We split up the bill, grilled steaks and served about 150 people. It was a chance for the school staff to relax and kick back after a hard year,” says Jonathan.

In addition to his fire department duties, Jonathan also serves on the city council. He ran for a seat in 2016 and was reelected in 2020. As part of his role, he attends monthly meetings where he provides the fire report. He also pays the city’s bills, helps work on ordinances and even did some mowing before they hired someone for the 10-hour a week job.

Jonathan often uses the maintenance knowledge from his job at Sanford Health to help with his city council role. This summer, he’ll be doing some plumbing for the bathroom at the city park and he likes the fact that he can help save the city money.

“I like to help out wherever I can,” says Jonathan.

Not one to sit still for very long, Jonathan also helps on his dad’s farm. In his spare time, he likes camping and hanging out with his dog.

Jonathan began working at Sanford Canby five years ago and became the maintenance lead a year ago. He enjoys the fast-paced work on the large campus.

“I never know what I’m going to get into and it makes the day interesting,” he says.


Ashley Flynn

Meet Ashley Flynn

Major Gifts Officer, Sanford Health

Ashley Flynn was on maternity leave after having her first child when she spent countless sleepless nights creating poems for her daughter.

“I wrote all these poems while rocking my daughter,” says Ashley. “It’s just a time I felt really inspired.”

Her daughter, Nina, started daycare in the spring, and as Ashley was back at work, she didn’t find any books that addressed what it was like for a new mom.

At the same time, Ashley began putting her poems together into a book. She planned to give the poem book to Nina when she was older.

“There are all sorts of baby reference books and new mother advice blogs, but when it comes time to go back to work and totally alter your lifestyle, I feel like nobody really talked to me about that transition, and there was no book on it,” Ashley says.

That’s when Ashley wrote a poem about her experience as a working mother. She spent a few hours over the span of two days writing a book based on that poem. When she shared it with her mom and her husband, Colby, they were moved and knew more people needed to read it.

At the suggestion of her family and a few friends, Ashley decided to pursue getting the book published, even though she didn’t know anything about the process.

“That process is actually hard,” she says. “Working full-time made it challenging. I decided to self-publish and found a lot of roadblocks. I ended up stumbling upon a book agency.”

The agency – Wise Ink – worked with Ashley on the storyboards, illustrations and editing.

“It was really fun,” Ashley says. “What’s neat is I own all the rights to the book.”

Her book, “My Favorite Job Is You,” was released close to Mother’s Day in 2018. Ashley planned a tour to promote the book while she was pregnant with her second child. She was in charge of all the marketing.

Ashley promoted her book at an event in New York City and a few events in Kansas. She also had a book launch party and did interviews with local TV stations and book readings in Sioux Falls.

“The tour and launch were exciting, but I wanted to get the book out to moms,” says Ashley. “The whole point of this journey was to touch other mothers and speak to their hearts.”

Ashley’s book is available on Amazon. As for future books, Ashley said she would be interested, but it would need to be about something she felt compelled to write.

“If God put something on my heart, I would love to write another book,” says Ashley.

Ashley and Colby have three children – Nina, Beau and Pearl. Ashley is a University of Kansas graduate and works for the Sanford Health Foundation as a major gifts officer.

“I absolutely love my job. I feel like I hit the jackpot with my team,” Ashley says.

Her advice for those who want to write a book is to make sure their goals don’t get lost in the process of publishing. She liked the company she worked with because she had the opportunity to use her own words and had control over the edits that were made.

“Don’t lose the heart of the book,” says Ashley. “Make sure the content is whatever you want it to be.”


Becky Stroh

Meet Becky Stroh

Clinical Documentation Supervisor, Sanford Health

As a nurse, Becky Stroh understands the importance of treating everyone with respect and dignity. She exemplifies this principle in her workplace, but she also demonstrates it off the clock, too.

Since January 2018, Becky has volunteered weekly with Heaven’s Helpers Soup Cafe in Bismarck, North Dakota. The Soup Cafe offers a free meal to anyone who needs it. While it’s technically a soup kitchen, the cafe operates like a restaurant. Patrons seat themselves and order off a menu from volunteer servers.

Heaven’s Helpers Soup Cafe helps the community, but the community also helps them. The cafe is completely supported by donations and volunteers.

“It’s heartwarming to see the community come together,” Becky says. “It’s phenomenal how much is donated.”

The soups and sandwiches on the menu are based on what’s in the kitchen. People often bring leftovers from their wedding feast or call to ask what the cafe needs. Stores around Bismarck are huge supporters and give what they can.

Becky’s title is PIC (Person in Charge). During her shifts, she leads other volunteers and makes sure the cafe is running smoothly.

Everything she does is for the cafe’s patrons.

“We serve people who are going through a tough time. Some of them don’t have jobs or they just can’t make ends meet. At the cafe, they don’t have to worry about putting food on their table or feeding their family,” Becky says.

She tries to offer them more than food.

“Sometimes all they want is for someone to listen to them or to see a familiar face,” she says. “You get to know them by name. Some patrons go days without hearing someone else say their name. I make a point of saying their name and listening.”

Even though Becky gives her time, she gets something out of her service, too.

“It’s just fulfilling for me. Sometimes I feel like I get more out of it than they do. It puts my life in perspective and makes me an overall better person,” she says. “That’s what keeps me coming back. It feels good.”

Becky gives her time every Tuesday after work to oversee the closing shift. She serves food, cleans, sanitizes and makes sure the cafe is ready for the next day.

Volunteering is sometimes a family affair for her. Becky’s husband, who she calls her sidekick, joins her when he can. On Christmas Day and Eve, her kids often volunteer right beside her.

Becky is always on a mission to recruit more volunteers. She knows what gets people to sign up and how to keep them coming back. To get them through the door, she shares stories about her time at the cafe and the people she serves. It’s very effective.

Once they finish a shift, they’ll usually be back if they have time.

“If people come and volunteer and know how much they’re appreciated, that’s all it takes,” Becky says. “It’s not something you need to talk people into.”

Working with the other volunteers is one of her favorite parts of giving her time. Many were once patrons and they’re now giving back in gratitude for the help they received.

Every volunteer has a unique story and reason for being there. Some of the people Becky works beside are mandated to be there to fulfill court orders or school obligations, but even those volunteers often go beyond what they’re required to do. And to her, that’s the power of giving back.

Volunteering at Heaven’s Helpers Soup Cafe has shown Becky one thing above all else.

“There’s a lot of good people out there,” she says.


Andrew Sternke

Meet Andrew Sternke

Human Resources Administration Representative, Sanford Health

Although he’s a busy father of five, Andrew Sternke has made it his goal to focus on others in the community. He’s working toward volunteering 10% of his time to benefit those around him.

“We are stewards of everything God has given us, and I have come to believe this also means our time,” says Andrew.

A little over 10 years ago, Andrew was putting in long hours as a retail manager, which took up most of his time.

“I wanted to be more others-focused and I didn’t feel like I had time to with the position I had,” Andrew says.

When the market took a downturn and Andrew lost his job, he realized it was his chance to start serving. His first opportunity to do so came when a tornado damaged the area where he lived in Minneapolis. With his two young children in tow, he went to help chop down branches while the kids picked up sticks.

“It was kind of a life change,” says Andrew. “The ability to help others lit a fire.”

He and his family moved to Sioux Falls in 2016 and soon got involved at their church. He leads the guest services team and he and his wife, Audra, lead a life group.

Their group of seven families volunteers throughout the year. They’ve helped clean up Camp Leif Erikson, delivered turkeys to families, prepared food at Kids Against Hunger, written thank you notes to teachers and nurses, and made beds for Sleep in Heavenly Peace.

Andrew and Audra are also marriage mentors. They’ve mentored seven engaged couples over the past three years.

“It takes being open and being vulnerable,” Andrew says. “It’s been a good experience for us.”

Some of Andrew’s favorite volunteer experiences involve cleaning up the grounds at local cemeteries and Camp Leif Erikson. He also likes being able to get his children involved in various service opportunities around the community.

Even though his schedule is busy, Andrew makes time to volunteer at his children’s school with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), where he’s helped with science fairs, movie night and bingo.

“The whole thing is about inspiring community,” says Andrew. “Parents can meet and grow that community.”

Andrew began working for Sanford Health last fall as an employee service center representative. It was a rewarding position for him because he answered employee questions about benefits or payroll. He recently moved to the role of human resources administration representative.

The pandemic made it more challenging for his family to volunteer, but the Sternkes found creative ways to reach out.

“We took long walks and visited from across the driveway, and it bolstered peoples’ hearts to see the kids,” says Andrew. “We decorated our sidewalk and went to the school and did positive messages on the sidewalks there.”

Andrew is also a Kiwanis Club member and has served with the organization for many years, helping meet the needs of children in the community.

“So many organizations are looking for people who have a desire outside of self to do something for the community, and there’s so many different places you can go,” Andrew says. “You can be as busy as you want.”


Jill Wiese

Meet Jill Wiese

Nurse, Sanford Health

Sitting still isn’t something you’ll usually see Jill Wiese doing. She’s an energetic, on-the-move woman with a mission to help those around her.

Whether it’s working as a registered nurse in same-day surgery at Sanford Bismarck or serving as an on-call emergency medical technician with the Washburn, North Dakota, ambulance service, Jill packs as much as she can into any given day.

She finds responding to ambulance calls fulfilling. And the proof is in her 28 years of service as an EMT. She serves on weekends and says there is never a dull moment. The squad has several high school students that Jill helps train.

“The ambulance is my wheelhouse,” says Jill. “It’s my medical fun for the weekend.”

In the winter, Jill can be found on the ski slopes at Huff Hills as part of the ski patrol. For the past 22 years, she’s used her EMT and nursing skills to help those who’ve been injured.

Jill also has a passion for volunteering with The God’s Child Project in Antigua, Guatemala, a nonprofit started by her friend 30 years ago. The Project focuses on care and education for children, widows and single mothers living in intense poverty.

Jill has gone to Guatemala for the past eight years with other volunteers from Sanford Health. She helps in a variety of areas while she’s there, doing everything from helping build a house to caring for babies and toddlers at the malnutrition hospital, Casa Jackson.

“That’s probably our favorite place,” says Jill.

The group also brings supplies to midwives in Antigua. This year, nurses in the NICU at Sanford Bismarck sterilized and gathered scissors and sent off hundreds with the volunteer team.

Jill and her group have an online wish list so their friends can see what they need. Because of their friends’ generosity, they’ve helped supply blood pressure cuffs, headlamps, dopplers, batteries, a fishing scale and laminated cards with CPR instructions in Spanish that are then brought to Guatemala.

“Every year, we get an idea of what The God’s Child Project needs and provide it,” Jill says. “We try to give them good equipment and supplies. They’re just blown away.”

Her group of friends also started a menstrual ministry and has dozens of volunteers and church and quilt groups that sew washable, sanitary pads for patients who come to the family clinic. Jill and the volunteers educate young girls on how to use the items and have interpreters help with the language barrier. Each girl gets new sanitary pads, underwear, lip gloss, lotion, hand sanitizer, soap, hair ties and more in a cute, drawstring bag.

Jill also shares her musical talents in Guatemala. She took the first guitar she owned and left it at the hospital so she can play for the children.

“When I’m there, we have ‘musica’ time. The kids dance and we play and sing,” says Jill.

Back home, Jill plays an upright bass named Bertha in a bluegrass band called Cotton Wood. The band is best known for its annual fundraiser, Bluegrass Goes Pink, which raises money for cancer patients.

“My sister died of breast cancer 19 years ago. We started it in memory of her and it blossomed from there,” says Jill. “We’ve blessed a lot of people with our music. It’s very, very fun.”

When asked what her advice is to those looking to volunteer, Jill says to do what you love.

“Do the things you know,” says Jill. “It’s just good to get out.”


Jane Gaffrey

Meet Jane Gaffrey, DO

Child Psychiatry Physician, Sanford Health

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wisconsin Museum of Quilting and Fiber Arts sent out a request. They asked for handmade 12-by-12 inch quilt blocks from creators of all skill levels for a new exhibit. The project, dubbed the Quarantine Quilt, received an overwhelming amount of submissions.

The museum collected over 500 blocks from more than 400 artists around the world. They ended up with the material to create 27 unique quilts.

One of the quilting artists was Jane Gaffrey, DO, a child psychiatrist at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota.

Dr. Gaffrey started sewing when she was 5 years old and her passion and skill grew from there. She got her first sewing machine for Christmas when she was 8 years old.

In high school, she was drawn to designing quilts, but she wouldn’t complete one for many years. Dr. Gaffrey has now finished several sewing projects and four quilts, three of which she created for her daughter, Abigail.

“The designing part is the best,” she says.

Dr. Gaffrey made and gifted a Blue’s Clues-themed quilt to Abigail when she turned 2 years old. She also joined a project called Row by Row where participating quilt shops design themed quilts. Her quilt theme was Sew Musical. Recently, she’s designed pet portrait quilts, including one of “a majestic cat named Sylvan” that she’s working on now.

Her love for designing is part of what pushed her to join the Quarantine Quilt project.

“I decided to participate for two reasons – my love for quilting design and the historical significance of the project,” Dr. Gaffrey says. “This project was a way to tell people’s stories of the pandemic that will be available for future generations to see.”

Quarantining for the pandemic reminded Dr. Gaffrey of a piece of her family’s history.

“My grandmother told stories of quarantining when she had diphtheria as a child,” she says.

Diphtheria was once a serious concern in the U.S. The highly contagious disease required infected individuals to self-isolate. Like COVID-19, it is now a vaccine-preventable illness.

Dr. Gaffrey wanted her square to be relevant to the pandemic.

“With his permission, I used a picture of one of our COVID-19 unit physicians,” she says. “I drew his picture on silk with Prismacolor markers and sewed on a border.”

Her daughter designed a quilt square as well. Her square has a rainbow-colored mask and a cartoon picture of the coronavirus.

“Abigail wanted to inspire people to wear a mask and wash their hands. She also picked rainbow colors for LGBTQ pride because she wanted to let people know that it’s okay to be different,” Dr. Gaffrey says.

Seeing the finished quilts ended up being bittersweet.

“We were excited to see it all put together. I enjoyed seeing how creative people got with it,” she says. “But I had to settle for seeing it in the printed catalog as the pandemic kept us from traveling there while it was on display. That part made me sad.”

But for many, the project still completed its purpose.

“I think the point of the project was to bring people together in a way that was permitted and safe during a time that was very isolating,” she says.

Dr. Gaffrey has firsthand experience with the power of creativity during hard times.

“I’ve been able to use drawing to help me cope with depression,” she says.

During a hospital admission for her depression, Dr. Gaffrey drew a picture of a quilt she wants to create one day. It features several blocks with sunsets that are partially obscured by black.

“The point is that there is more to life than a depressed mind can perceive,” she says. “Around the border, it’ll have the expression ‘when life gives you scraps, make a quilt.’”


Sarah Fisher

Meet Sarah Fisher

CNA, Sanford Health

Sarah Fisher has cupboards and cupboards full of crosses that she hand delivers or sends to people who have lost a loved one. She started doing it to honor the memory of her son, Cameron Bolton, who died after a car accident in 2018. Since then, she’s given out 1,822 crosses.

“It has been a great ministry,” says Sarah, a certified nursing assistant in the post-anesthesia care unit at Sanford Health in Fargo. “It’s really comforting to me because my faith is important to me.”

But sending out the crosses is just one part of the mission. In June of 2020, Sarah and her husband Arlin started their foundation, Crosses for Cameron.

When Cameron died at age 22, he was a registered organ donor. His heart, kidney, liver, corneas, bone tissue and ligaments were all donated. Through the foundation, Sarah and Arlin now promote organ donation with speaking engagements and interviews.

The couple has met many of the recipients of Cameron’s organs, including Jeremy French, a 32-year-old who lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Jeremy has Cameron’s heart.

“It was really emotional because you know Cameron’s a part of who they are now,” says Sarah. “As days, weeks and months continue to pass, one miracle after another has taken place through Cameron’s donations. His life continues to bless others and our family has found peace knowing that he continues to live on.”

Another way Crosses for Cameron promotes organ donation is through rocks. Sarah started painting them in August of 2020 and has others helping her. A donate life graphic is pasted to each rock and placed in a small, resealable plastic bag along with a card encouraging people to do a random act of kindness.

The rocks have brought hope and awareness around the country. Sarah’s goal was to have rocks in all 50 states, so she sent them with people going on vacation.

“I thought it would take a long time, but it only took a week,” she says.

When someone receives a cross or finds a rock, they’re asked to share their story or post a picture on the “Crosses for Cameron Bolton” Facebook page. They can also use #crossesforcameron or email

Sarah receives about two stories a day and posts them as soon as she gets them. One person shared how they found a rock on a ski slope in Big Sky, Montana, at 12,200 feet.

“It’s been a really huge part of my healing process,” says Sarah. “When you lose someone, it’s really hard because the hopes and dreams you had for them are gone.”

The foundation has also sponsored a room at the Ronald McDonald House in Fargo as part of Giving Hearts Day and is working with the city park board to have a space created that spreads organ donation awareness. Anyone can buy a brick for their loved one to be placed in the park. Sarah has also been involved with the donor council at Sanford Health.

“There’s a saying that with extreme love comes extreme grief. It’s really true. You have to find a way to channel all that love you can’t give anymore,” Sarah says.

Crosses for Cameron not only spreads awareness about organ donation, it also provides scholarships to students going into the medical field. Four scholarships were awarded in 2020 alone.

Sarah and Arlin like to stay busy sharing the importance of organ donation while keeping Cameron’s memory alive.

“He helped a lot of people and he’s still helping people,” Sarah says.