June 20, 2023 at 2:31 p.m.
More than 500 participate in first Henry’s Heroes Walk
Elliot Rosenow stood next to his mom, Jessie Jensen, holding a sign that read “I’m Walking For Elliot.”
Born at 1 pound, 15 ounces, at 27-week gestation, Elliot is a healthy, active little boy today.
“We are so lucky,” Jensen said before the first annual Henry’s Heroes Walk, supporting families of premature babies, June 3 in St. Martin, with more than 500 people participating..
The idea to organize a walk was a goal for Gina and Kris Lomheim of Farming Township, whose son, Henry, was born Oct. 13, 2022, at 26 week gestation, weighing 2 pounds 7.5 ounces, and spent 87 days in the St. Cloud Hospital neonatal intensive care unit. He is a baby brother to Harrison, 5, and Madelyn, 3. The Lomheims are grateful for the support they received and wanted to do something to help other families of premature babies so they held the walk, with money raised donated to affected families.
Before the 9 a.m. walk, people browsed around the St. Martin Community Center grounds, participating in activities, like having their photos taken and faces painted.
Many had their own preemie stories.
Kristin Gruber held daughter Avery in her arms, while daughter Reagan sat on her dad Brett’s shoulders.
“Avery was born at 34 weeks and 2 (days) and spent 20 days in the NICU in St. Cloud,” Kristin said. “She’s 10 months old today.”
Supporting them on this day were Brett’s parents Pete and Diane Gruber and Kristin’s parents Jim and Denise Blommel.
Kristin is a nurse at the St. Cloud Hospital birth center in St. Cloud.
“Having a baby in the NICU gave me a totally new perspective on it and a whole new empathy for the moms that have babies in the NICU,” she said. “It’s fun to be able to do something to give back to all those families.”
Shirley Tschida talked about her twin grandsons, Blake and Grant, who were 1 pound, 9 ounces and 1 pound, 12 ounces when they were born to Corey and Carlyn Tschida 22 years ago at a hospital in the Twin Cities.
“I took care of them a lot,” Shirley said. “They were lots of fun.”
Her sister, Pat Groetsch, talked about the boys’ newborn days.
“What I remember most were the little diapers, the size of Beanie Babies,” she said.
Grant is in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Blake works in Albertville.
Before the walk, Gina Lomheim shared Henry’s story, mentioning his heroes, the NICU nurses and other nurses, who helped care for him, and applause was given to some of those nurses who were at the walk.
“Without them, we would not be here today,” she said.
She said, in conversations with them, “They love Henry, they still think about him often, and it was a blessing to hug them and thank them again.”
St. Martin Fire Department members blocked off roads as walkers, led by the Lomheim family, Kris holding Henry, started the 2.5-mile route. Posters with pictures of premature babies lined the route, and family members stopped to have their photos taken by them. They included the Gregg and Courtney Rademacher family who celebrated the lives of three premature babies. Walking was 12-year-old Kayden Krousey, the son of Courtney’s sister Ashley and husband Dan Krousey, who was born at 31-week gestation, weighing 3 pounds, 11.6 ounces. The Rademachers’ twin daughters Amelia and Olivia were born Marchv17, 2023, at 24-week gestation; Amelia at 1 pound, 7 ounces and Olivia at 1 pound, 4 ounces.
Following the walk there was a cape crawl for young children. Participants also enjoyed a hot dog lunch and music.
After the event, Gina Lomheim said walking with 500 other people to honor, acknowledge and pray for past NICU babies was humbling. With the help of four friends, Rachel Burg, Rachel Tschida, Vicki Burg and Danielle Atkinson, they created this nonprofit to assist local NICU families as they navigate a difficult journey.
“The day was everything I envisioned and more,” she said. “This started out as an idea and became a dream. My dream came to life the morning of June 3.”