When Randy and Ree Erickson's son Silas passed away in 2007 after a year-long battle with neuroblastoma, they felt like they had two choices: retreat into themselves or find a way to turn their pain into something positive. After a couple months of doing the former, Randy and Ree began work on the latter. They sold their home in North Dakota and relocated to Rochester, where they'd spent so much time during Silas's cancer treatments at Mayo Clinic. "It just felt like the right thing to do," Ree tells us.
Once in Rochester, Ree tells us it also felt right to apply for jobs at Mayo Clinic, where she works as a desk operations specialist in Urology and Randy, as a door attendant. "It's our way of giving back to Mayo for everything they did to help Silas," Ree says. "The people I see when I'm working at my desk may not know what's happened in my life, and I certainly don't know what's happening in theirs, but I do know that I can treat them the way that I would want to be treated if I was back in their shoes. I can show them love and compassion because I've been on the other side of that desk."
Randy and Ree's love and compassion for others isn't just contained within the walls of Mayo Clinic. It also extends to their home in Rochester. They've remodeled their walk-out basement into an apartment that serves as a sanctuary for families looking for a place to stay while their children receive care at Mayo Clinic. "We've seen many families come and go, and it's been exciting to get to meet these people and to have an impact in their lives," Ree says. "It gives us purpose in our own lives to try and help them like this."
Called Cy's Place, — Cy was Silas' nickname — Randy and Ree's basement oasis features two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchenette, laundry facilities, living room, and direct outside access. "It requires very little of us," Randy says. "We basically just give families a key and they take care of themselves downstairs."
Of course, Randy and Ree are just a door knock away if their guests need more. "We've provided meals and babysitting services to some families," Ree tells us. "We also offer help navigating Rochester and Mayo Clinic. But the main thing we offer is our support and encouragement."
If all goes according to plan, Randy and Ree will someday be able to offer that on a larger scale. The couple has plans for a 20-apartment building that will allow more pediatric patients and their families to call Cy's Place their home away from home between appointments and treatments at Mayo. "We've already got the land," Randy tells us. "We're now just trying to raise what we need for the building."
Mayo Clinic pediatric cardiologist Jonathan Johnson, M.D., says in this YouTube video that the new Cy's Place will make a big difference for families with children who are facing significant medical challenges. "I can't tell you enough how much a place like Cy's Place will be valuable to the whole transplant community," he says.
Which Randy says has been the goal of the Ericksons since creating Cy's Place in honor of their son. "We really want to help as many families as we can by giving them a safe and clean place to stay that's more like a home than a hotel room."