After losing daughter, parents look to help others

Peter and Christine O’Keefe of Apple Valley say that a multitude of toys, craft projects and other activities helped lessen the unease of their daughter Mary’s long hospital stay. The mission of the nonprofit they started in her memory is to help create that calming environment for other youngsters undergoing treatment at the University of Minnesota’s Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

Peter and Christine O’Keefe of Apple Valley say that a multitude of toys, craft projects and other activities helped lessen the unease of their daughter Mary’s long hospital stay. The mission of the nonprofit they started in her memory is to help create that calming environment for other youngsters undergoing treatment at the University of Minnesota’s Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

After the death of their 3-year-old daughter Mary from cancer in July 2009, Peter and Christine O’Keefe sought ways to channel their grief.

In addition to grief counseling, Peter worked on a basement remodeling project at the family’s Apple Valley home, while Christine began making runs to a local arts and craft supply store, buying hundreds of dollars worth of items.

She’d then bring the art supplies to the Minneapolis hospital where Mary had been treated, in hopes of brightening the stays of other kids there.

That altruistic effort has since blossomed into the Mary Moon Foundation, a nonprofit the O’Keefes created in Mary’s honor which conducts fundraising events to help finance art supplies, toys and games for the University of Minnesota’s Amplatz Children’s Hospital. (The foundation is so named because Mary’s nickname was Moon.)

“After you lose your daughter, you’re kind of left adrift,” Peter said. “Some people turn to bad habits. … We had a great support system while our daughter was undergoing treatment, and we decided we wanted to give back.”

During Mary’s long stay at the children’s hospital, a multitude of toys, craft projects and other activities helped put the youngster at ease, and the O’Keefes decided that was the environment they wanted to help create for other families with a child receiving treatment.

“We’re not giving to cancer research – we believe in that, and we’re glad it’s supported – but right now, today, there are children that are in the hospital, and we want to help those families,” Peter said.

The Mary Moon Foundation will be hosting its second annual “Make a Splash” event at the Water Park of America from 4 to 8 p.m. this Sunday, March 3. The event features discounted admission to the water park, games, entertainment and a silent auction.

Tickets to the “Make a Splash” event can be purchased through www.marymoonfoundation.org, for $12.

The foundation is also hosting an online auction in conjunction with “Make a Splash,” and details can be found on the website.

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