Kristina Hesby Channeled Her Grief Into Something Good

Kristina Hesby was just 9 years old when her father passed away. But the example he set in those few years left a legacy worthy of a lifetime together.
Kristina Hesby, left, with her mom, Virginia Wright-Peterson.

Kristina Hesby was just 9 years old when her father passed away. But the example he set in the years they shared left a legacy worthy of a lifetime together.

When Kristina Hesby was just 9 years old, her father, Ralph Wright-Peterson, passed away from leukemia. It was a devastating loss that divided her life into two chapters: "everything is either before or after," Hesby tells Rochester Magazine. "Graduating, getting married, having kids, getting a job — they were all moments when he wasn't there."

But there's no doubt her father left a major imprint on his daughter's life and heart during the "before" chapter. As the magazine reports, his illness and influence guided her career path (she's a nurse at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus) and, more recently, inspired Hesby to start a foundation dedicated to helping those facing challenges she and her family know all too well. "The experience we went through made me want to do something in his memory," Hesby tells the magazine. So in 2014 she did just that, launching the Med City Foundation to "support the non-medical needs of patients in Rochester who are battling blood cancers."

The support the foundation provides comes in a variety of forms, from gift cards for gas or groceries, to financial assistance to help cover lodging, medical bills or other expenses. Other times, the support is a little more unique. "We received a request from someone last year who was a single dad, and he was sick and wanted to do something special for his young son," Hesby tells the magazine. In response, the foundation coordinated a meeting (and shopping trip) with Minnesota Vikings' Marcus Sherels. "It's really personalized," Hesby says of the foundation's efforts.

And really appreciated. Nicole Ronning, whose husband, Jon, received treatment at Mayo Clinic, credits Med City Foundation with helping her family through the holidays. "They helped us out with Christmas," Ronning tells the magazine, adding "we would not have made it through those months if it wasn't for her helping us." The support, she says, was "absolutely amazing."

The Med City Foundation is 100-percent volunteer led, with Hesby shouldering much of the load. But she's quick to give thanks to those who have enthusiastically supported the cause, from volunteer board members to folks even closer to the foundation's mission.

"My mom is my right-hand-woman for EVERYTHING," she says of her mother (and former Mayo Clinic staffer) Virginia Wright-Peterson, Ph.D. Hesby's husband pitches in as well, "picking up the slack at home when I am at board meetings or fundraising events." Even her colleagues have helped out through donations and volunteering. "This is the perfect example of a community making something amazing happen," she tells us, "kind of like building a hospital after a tornado."

To learn more, check out the Med City Foundation's website or mark your calendar for the Margarita Madness fundraising event. Then blow us away by leaving a comment below before you use the social media tools to share this story with others.