Grant Recipients

Over the past decade, the Northern Lights Foundation has granted more than $400,000 to over 180 Northland families. Each family has its own story to tell and you can hear some of them below. Foundation grants are unrestricted which means families can use the funds for whatever needs they may have.

Misha Sauer - Duluth

Shortly after moving to Duluth, the Sauer family's lives changed drastically when, at a general check-up appointment for 1-year-old Misha, the doctors began taking a blood test for extremely low platelets. Dad Joe was experiencing pain in his neck and was also going to the doctor for testing. Just before Christmas that year, Joe was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which is a cancer that starts in the body’s immune system. Several days later, Misha was diagnosed with acute megakaryoblastic leukemia, which is a rare form of cancer found in a very small percentage of children. Just a couple of weeks after both diagnoses, Mother Nadya announced they were pregnant with their second daughter, Sasha. Today, baby Sasha is several months old and entering the most courageous family. Joe and Misha are both in remission and doing very well at every check-up. “We are thankful to the Northern Lights Foundation and their mission because they were the very first support we ever received,” Nadya said. “We got a check in the mail immediately with no questions asked. With not having any family here, we felt supported by our community. It made us feel at home.”

We are going through this together - Duluth

Meet Ella Mahnke, Age 10, Ella Smith, Age 12, and Nathalia Hawley, Age 14, who are all battling forms of cancer. The three girls and their single parents met while receiving treatment at Essentia Health Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. They are supporting each other and relating to what each friend is going through as they all bravely fight to beat cancer. Ella M. is an incredible 4th grader at Bayview Elementary and dreams of someday swimming with sharks. Ella S. is from Cook, Minnesota and loves art, animals and nature. Despite missing all of the 5th grade due to cancer treatment, she obtained the highest reading test scores in all of her 6th grade class. Nathalia is a baker at heart and has supplied many beautiful and delicious baked goods to the entire 8-West staff and nurses at Essentia. Their three single parents are thankful to have their own bonded friendship as well. "We are all making it through this together" - they say. It's helpful for their girls to have friends and a sense of normal and comforting to have other single parents who can relate to their child being diagnosed with cancer. Together is truly better.

Isaac Carlson - Wisconsin

Isaac is 7 years old. He is wise beyond his years, thoughtful, kind, funny and always has a smile on his face – no matter what. At the age of 5, Isaac was diagnosed with Leukemia.His family was forever changed from the moment they heard this news. They are humble, supportive, caring and above all fighters for their son’s life. Today, now feeling healthy and stronger, Isaac loves to re-enact WWE wrestling with his younger brother Noah. They watch the sport frequently together and like to take out their little-boy-energy out on each other in the purest of ways. There’s a carryover theme from the high stakes living room wrestling to his family’s approach to defeating his fight with Leukemia.Their entire family went to the ring to focus on beating Isaac’s cancer from the first round. Mom and Dad kept their businesses running, children educated in homeschooling and spirits UP during the very difficult days of dealing with the diagnosis. They have never lost sight of each other in this fight together. Because of their positive energy, fighting love and passionate hearts, takeIsaac has won. A family of fighters giving it all takes the ultimate title home, their healthy son.


Aria Rose Grams - Duluth

Nine days after Aria’s first birthday, she went into full cardiac arrest and was resuscitated by her mother, Tara.  She was transported to a hospital in Duluth by ambulance where an x-ray revealed that she had an enlarged heart.  Aria was soon helicoptered to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis and she was diagnosed with myocarditis – a viral infection of the heart.  She went into cardiac arrest again and was helicoptered to the Mayo, Clinic in Rochester where she spent 101 days on life support awaiting a heart transplant.  During that time, Aria suffered multiple strokes, but on September 13, 2015, she received a new heart.


AMarie Johnson – Minneapolis/St. Paul

During a routine ultrasound, doctors discovered an abnormality in the heart of Brianna and Thomas Johnson’s baby girl. The anxious parents were referred to the Perinatal Center at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis where they learned that their baby’s heart had only three and a half chambers rather than four. Only six days after being born, little AMarie underwent her first surgery. Her doctors say she will need a few additional surgeries, the last of which she will undergo when she is three to four years old. Her father is optimistic noting that AMarie was born in August and is a Leo. He says she has the heart of a lion.

Cade Slattengren - Duluth

In the summer of 2014, after scoring the winning run in a championship baseball game, 13-year-old Cade Slattengren discovered some large lumps in his armpits.  The next day, during an appointment at Essentia Health, an x-ray revealed that he had a large mass in his chest.  He was helicoptered to the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities where he was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  During the first ten months of his 3 ½ year treatment plan, Cade had to spend one week each month in the hospital.  He is currently in remission but must continue treatment until 2017.


Anders Breidenbach - Duluth

During Anders’ nine-month well child check, his pediatrician noticed that one of Anders’ eyes was not reacting the way it should. Anders was referred to an ophthalmologist who told his parents that Anders had cancer. Within a week of being diagnosed, he began chemotherapy. One of the cancerous tumors kept returning; so after a year, he was referred to St. Jude’s for further treatment. This story has a happy ending because Anders is now cancer free, and his eye was able to be saved. Today, he reads like crazy, skis and does all the things other boys his age do.

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