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A gift from Ann

Last week, close to 100 area residents took part in the second-annual East Ridge High School Ann Haering Foundation golf tournament.1 / 3
Jane Haering, Ann's mother, helped the Haering Foundation raise money for Children's Lighthouse of Minnesota at the East Ridge Ann Haering Foundation golf tournament last week.2 / 3
East Ridge head boys coach Bret Brookins participated in the tournament, which included golf, dinner, awards and admission to a concert by Low Voltage.3 / 3

Four months after her death, Ann Haering is still making a difference.

Haering, 18, passed away at her Woodbury home on Feb. 20, after a four-year battle with leukemia. However, that didn't mean the fight was over.

Last week, close to 100 area residents took part in the second-annual East Ridge High School Ann Haering Foundation golf tournament, with a significant portion of the proceeds going toward Children's Lighthouse of Minnesota -- a program hoping to raise $8 million to open the state's first children's hospice home in the next three to five years.

"Through everything, she didn't complain at all -- not one bit," said Alli Rice, Ann's best friend and Ann Haering Foundation board member. "But, being able to see someone else that went through the things that she went through and not have the problems that come along with it is definitely something that she wants and we're going to make it happen."

Rice, a 2010 Woodbury graduate, said the foundation is working to figure out what

Ann would have wanted to do and turn a trying situation into a positive.

"We're determined to truly make a difference for people in similar situations," Rice said. "No one should have to go through it, but the reality is that people do. Being able to make it easier would mean a lot. As a foundation, we're able to lead for Ann now. She is our inspiration."

Haering's brother John and sister Mary both have played in the East Ridge golf program.

The tournament, held June 30 at Woodbury's Prestwick Golf Club, included golf, dinner, awards and admission to a concert by Low Voltage. In addition, games such as closest to the pin, longest drive, longest putt and hole-in-one for $35,000 were part of the event.

Money raised went to the East Ridge golf program and the Ann Haering Foundation.

"It's a fantastic day and a fantastic cause," Fundraiser event director George Yoshida said. "The Ann Haering Foundation put this together for hospice care for kids who are dying. There's a lot of places to go for adults, but nowhere for young kids. It's just a great cause and we're going to try and have lots of fun today. It's a good community event."

Yoshida said he has been impressed by the way the people of Woodbury have come together.

"We have it so good here," he said. "When people get sick, it's a great community that rallies around great causes. I've seen it happen so many times here. It's very fortunate we're in such a great community. I think what has happened is so fresh in peoples' minds, we don't really know how to react and what to do. But, sometimes, when you don't know, you just have to do something."

Last summer, Haering was able to attend the first-ever East Ridge High School Ann Haering Foundation golf tournament, at Mississippi Dunes Golf Course in Cottage Grove. A portion of the proceeds of that event went to help defray some of the medical expenses of a blood/bone marrow transplant Haering underwent in an attempt to overcome the Acute lymphoblastic leukemia she was diagnosed with in 2007 when she was just an eighth grader at Lake Junior High.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a form of leukemia, or cancer, of the white blood cells characterized by excess lymphoblasts.

Her initial diagnosis ended her promising soccer career as a forward for the Woodbury Soccer Club's Premier program. However, after nearly two- and a-half years of chemotherapy, Haering was in remission and was able to return to a typical high school life. But, that remission was short-lived. On April 28 of 2010, the leukemia had returned.

Just two days before she was admitted to the University of Minnesota Medical Center in preparation for her transplant, Haering enjoyed the sunny day at Mississippi Dunes.

Five months later, however, on Monday, Jan. 24, Haering was admitted to the in-patient intensive-care unit at the University of Minnesota hospital with a serious blood infection, which nearly took her life.

In her last days, Haering was enrolled in Karuna Care, a program which says it allows physicians to provide palliative care to children with potentially life-limiting conditions and their families at their homes.

Heather Elm, Ann's cousin and vice president of the Ann Haering Foundation, said Ann was fortunate enough to be able to die at home -- but others are not.

"Right now there is nothing that exists to help children who are dying or that have life-limiting conditions to give families a break aside from hospital care," Elm said. "If Ann's wishes were not to die at home, then she would've had to die in the hospital, which she absolutely hated. There were no other options."

Most children in Minnesota with terminal health conditions die either in the hospital or at home. Minnesota has 15 residential hospice homes for adults, however there are none in the state for kids.

Katie Lindenfelser, a Coon Rapids therapist, began Children's Lighthouse of Minnesota, hoping to raise $8 million and open an 8- to 10-bed children's hospice home in the next three to five years. It would be the third children's hospice in the United States, although there are numerous similar facilities in the United Kingdom and around the world.

According to its website, the nurturing home environment will have open gathering spaces for children and families to spend time together while staying for respite and a revered suite for children who are dying. Along with daily cares, meals and bathing, Children's Lighthouse of Minnesota will provide unique services for children such as music, art, pet therapies, massage and hydrotherapy.

"The Lighthouse is going to be completely funded by community donations," Elm said. "Families that are experiencing having children with life-limiting conditions are financially strapped already. For them to have to pay for home health care when all their insurance is maxed out, what do you do? It's very important for these families to have somewhere to go. And, not only is it a hospice, it takes care of the whole family. I think that is something that would've been really, really helpful for the Haerings.

"It's only been four months, but we're very driven to make that happen for Ann. It's important to us so that we can help other families and hopefully people will have a place to go when their kids are not in a good spot."