The Healing Power of Philanthropy

“I will never forget answering the phone and hearing the nurse tell me that my children were in a terrible accident,” says Lesa Hess.

In July 2013, Lesa bid her children farewell as they pulled out of their Burnsville home for a road trip to El Paso, Texas to visit their grandparents. What was supposed to be a fun sibling adventure took a disastrous turn when the vehicle the Ziebols were driving crossed the centerline and was hit by a semi.

The crash killed 19-year-old Taylor Ziebol, the vehicle’s driver, and left 17-year-old Shannon Ziebol and 15-year-old Adam Ziebol in critical condition.

Lesa, her husband James and her brother-in-law, Duane, were offered a flight in a family friend’s private plane and were in Dodge City, Kansas just a few hours later. The family left with the just the clothes on their back, intent on just one thing—getting to Shannon and Adam.

When they arrived in Dodge City, they were overwhelmed by an outpouring of support from the hospital and the community.

“When we got off the plane we were in still in shock—we didn’t know what to do first—but we were so well taken care of,” recalls Duane.

The family was met at the airport with a free rental vehicle for the duration of their stay in Kansas. The hospital arranged a nearby hotel room. The nursing staff offered to wash their clothes and kept them fed, bringing in hot meals on a regular rotation. Each act of kindness allowed the Ziebols to focus on the most important task—caring for Shannon and Adam.

After the Ziebol family returned to Minnesota, they began to look for ways to honor Taylor’s memory, celebrate Shannon and Adam’s strength and courage  and support other families in need close to home.

“We knew that we wanted to be able to help other families, like ours, reeling from a recent catastrophe with their basic needs, including food, shelter and transportation,” says Duane. Duane and his wife Candis, along with Lesa and James, approached Fairview Ridges Hospital to establish a philanthropic fund to do just that. Within just a few short months, the Ziebol Family Hospital Crisis Fund was created within Fairview Foundation.

Along the way, they discovered that while they made their generous gift to help others, the act of giving also helped the Ziebol family a bit as well. They found a sense of hope and healing through their gift.

“It really helps you process the grief when you can do something to keep their memory alive and living in your heart,” says Candis.

To support the Ziebol Family Hospital Crisis Fund and other important initiatives, visit

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