“It’s very humbling as somebody who takes an idea that was written down on a scrap of paper to see it turn into something,” explained Kristina Hesby, Founder and President of Med City Foundation. “I think it is very inspiring to see because I did not do this on my own.”
Hesby believes that Med City Foundation would likely not be what it is today if she had launched the organization in any other city; the four-year- old business was made even better, she explained, because a whole community came together to make it happen.
Med City Foundation is a grassroots, one hundred percent volunteer-led nonprofit that meets the non-medical needs of lymphoma, leukemia, and myeloma patients being treated in Rochester. Hesby said in the early stages of the organization, patients would fill out an application and in turn would normally be gifted financial assistance, like a gas or grocery card. After a few years of experience, the nonprofit has learned not to ask, but to simply listen to identify the true needs of the patient.
“We started out every conversation not telling [patients] what we help out with but asking them what they need help with. That has really changed the type of care we have given in the last year or year and a half,” Hesby explained.
After the initial travel to Rochester, locating lodging is one major issue patients and their caregivers face.
“None of our patients can come to Rochester alone. They are all required by their physician to come with a caregiver,” said Hesby.
As part of this process, whole families could be transplanted to Rochester anywhere from two to ten weeks. Hesby’s organization can help patients understand the hospitality homes that exist in Rochester- such as the Gift of Life Transplant House and Hope Lodge- and may even provide lodging for the patient until a room opens up at these locations.
Med City Foundation really fills in the gaps when the patient is not a child, is traveling with a significant amount of family, or desires more privacy than is offered in the communal lifestyle at Rochester’s hospitality homes. The organization can help patients secure lodging elsewhere, such as in a hotel, or can even house patients and their families in Med City Foundation’s very own apartment, which they were gifted just this year.
In addition to the immediate needs of medical care and lodging, patients and their caregivers have to continue to live their lives as unhindered as possible during their stay in Rochester. To fill these gaps, Med City Foundation has taken on a bit of a community navigator role, helping families connect to the local school and library system if they are visiting with children, linking caregivers up with places they can continue to work from, and helping families just understand what they can do with their time when not consumed by medical appointments.
None of the assistance provided by Med City Foundation is based on financial need; Hesby aims to grow the nonprofit to the point where they never have to turn anyone away.
In a sense, Med City Foundation is the realization of a lifelong commitment by Hesby. A Registered Nurse by training, she began fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at age eighteen. When she started Med City Foundation, she had no prior experience running a business or a nonprofit.
“I literally googled ‘opening a nonprofit’ when we were coming up with the idea. It has been just asking a lot of questions, learning from other people, looking for best practice, and just kind of trying to absorb myself in as much of it as I can,” Hesby explained.
Hesby’s father, Dr. Ralph Wright-Peterson, inspired her to create something like Med City Foundation and keep the funds she raised local.
A pillar in the community, Dr. Wright-Peterson served as Principal at John Marshall High School and helped to start Mayo High School as the Rochester community grew. He continually looked for ways to be involved with and to improve the community, leading him to host foreign exchange students in his home, be heavily involved in his family’s church, and serve as one of the first members on the Community Food Response Board.
Dr. Wright-Peterson’s death in 1995 after an eight-month battle with leukemia prompted Hesby’s lifelong fundraising efforts for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in his memory. When she first started to raise money in her father’s name, Hesby was deeply impacted by the both the amount of money she raised locally and the number of Rochester residents who attended her fundraisers and shared stories of their own battles with blood cancer.
“That’s when I really felt like, for the work that Dad had done in the community and the love he had for it, we should really keep it local,” she explained.
Hesby’s goal for this year is sustainability for Med City Foundation, including the establishment of meaningful partnerships that will help to nonprofit continue to exist.
“We are not going to be here in ten years just by doing our own thing. I am really hoping to make relationships, and have conversations, and figure out how we can best serve these patients and this community moving forward,” Hesby explained.
Finding balance in her own life, which Hesby admits she struggles with the most, is one key piece to help her meet this goal.
“Number one, I’m very transparent with anybody and everybody I’m talking to,” she explained.
Because Med City Foundation is made up solely of volunteers, Hesby is honest with patients about the turnaround time they should expect to receive assistance from the nonprofit. Personally, Hesby says she takes advantage of every spare moment she’s given to hop onto her computer or phone to maximize her efficiency.
For those interested in helping Med City Foundation by volunteering or any businesses looking to partner with the nonprofit, please contact the organization at email@example.com.