It all started with a wish—and led to the creation of the Katie Hageboeck Children’s Cancer Research Fund Clinic located at M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.
The naming of the clinic, made official at a dedication ceremony in October 2021, honored the wishes of Katie Hageboeck, who in 1979, was nearing the end of a 16-month battle with leukemia.
The story begins when the then 13-year-old Hageboeck, understanding that she was dying, asked her parents to donate the money she had been saving to purchase a red, 10-speed Schwinn bicycle. She wanted the donation to go toward helping children who had cancer. “Her wish was that other kids would get better treatments, so they could live,” says Diana Hageboeck, Katie’s mother.
The Children’s Cancer Research Fund, the recipient of Hageboeck’s donation, was then a little-known fund held at the University of Minnesota. Hageboeck says, “I can remember talking about it with other families as we waited in an alcove outside our sick kids’ rooms in the old Mayo building [The Mayo Memorial Building on the University of Minnesota campus was once part of Elliot Hospital].”
These discussions weren’t lost on Katie, whose room was within earshot of the alcove. “Katie had been sick for 16 months,” Hageboeck says. “She had the best of care. The doctors fell in love with her, and she fell in love with her doctors.”
“We didn’t know it at the time,” Hageboeck says, “but Katie was being treated in not only one of the best facilities in the country, but one of the best facilities in the world. It’s where the first bone marrow transplant was performed. Katie’s was [approximately] the 50th.”
A couple years after Katie died, Hageboeck and her husband, Norm, started a fundraiser called Dawn of a Dream in an effort to raise funds for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund.
“We had never done anything like it, but we knew how to volunteer, and we had friends,” Hageboeck says.
And? “Katie’s bike donation was that bee in the bonnet,” she adds. Since its inception, Children’s Cancer Research Fund donors have responded by donating more than $100 million to the pediatric cancer program at the University of Minnesota and M Health Fairview.
“What’s happened is hard to describe,” Hageboeck says. “It’s just such magic. I’ve had to look at a thesaurus when writing thank you notes, as you can only say ‘amazing’ so many times. So far, the best word I can come up with is ‘dumbstruck.’”
And to think, it started with a 13-year-old donating her bike money, so that kids she didn’t even know could better fight a disease that would ultimately take her life.
To donate to the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, go to childrenscancer.org.