MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Vikings Executive Vice President of Legal Affairs & Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Warren and his wife, Greta, on Thursday committed $1 million the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital to establish "Carolyn's Comforts."
The children's cancer emergency assistance fund will provide various types of economic support to cancer patients and their families to show them the care that Warren's sister, Carolyn Elaine Warren-Knox, had for others. Warren-Knox succumbed to brain cancer this October, but not before a courageous battle.
Kevin and Greta Warren witnessed the challenges that confront families beyond the difficult medical diagnosis to create economic distress on families during extensive treatments. They set a goal of helping as many families as possible through difficult times.
Warren shared warm memories of his sister. His niece, Gioia Pitts, and nephew, Trevor Knox, also spoke of the care their mother had for others, especially for young people through her role as an educator in Phoenix.
Warren-Knox was a junior in high school when Kevin Warren was born, but he said they enjoyed an incredible closeness. Warren said the care his sister had for others stemmed from the way their parents believed in helping neighbors, friends, family or community members in need.
Warren said his sister was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago and underwent a double mastectomy. The cancer went into remission, and she was able to attend his 50th birthday party in November 2013.
"She came to the party, was beautiful, vibrant," Warren said. "She ate, she drank, she danced, and never did I think 13 months later I would be standing in memory of her. I think that's just a lesson to all of us that life goes fast and there are no guarantees. One of the things we need to start doing is we've got to realize life is short. It goes fast, and we need to do the most we can while we have a chance to do it."
Pitts and Knox recalled how their mother went into her job as a director of a Head Start program with a positive attitude and passion to help children.
"It's bitter but sweet because this is what my mom would want," Pitts said. "The legacy that my mom leaves is just now beginning."
Knox added: "Thank you to the Minnesota Vikings for the continued support, thank you to the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital. My mom would really appreciate this. She always fought hard until the day she finally passed and left behind a legacy of hardworking, caring and loyal family members."
Dr. Joseph Neglia, Chair and Professor of Pediatrics and Physician-in-Chief, Hospital President Kathie Taranto and Dr. Brenda Weigel delivered comments of thanks to the Warrens and said the fund is already helping families with mortgage payments, items for childcare and with the opportunity for a patient to purchase adaptive equipment that was not covered by insurance.
"The generosity of this fund allows us at the Masonic Children's Hospital to ease the financial burden and hardship of these pediatric families in the midst of tremendously trying times," Weigel said. "Kevin, Greta and family, thank you for recognizing this tremendous need. It will touch the lives of thousands for years. We cannot thank you enough for recognizing this important need and for being so generous."
Warren thanked the Wilf family for the opportunity to work for the Vikings the past 10 years and their support and encouragement. He said he appreciates the work of the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital and is grateful for the endearing relationships he and his family have enjoyed in Minnesota.
"This is a wonderful hospital," Warren said. "The people here in Minnesota are absolutely beautiful, special people. We've been here 10 years now and have really grown to love this place."
In addition to the financial assistance, each family that benefits from the fund will receive a specially-produced and Minnesota-based Faribault Woolen Mill blanket that features the "Carolyn's Comforts" logo.
Pitts and Knox received blankets during the ceremony several feet away from blasts of cold air that entered the hospital's lobby as automatic doors opened for patients. Warren said it was appropriate for the reception to occur near the front door, "not from a cold standpoint, but from a reality standpoint that people are coming in and out of here, and there's a lot of people in need."
"So from Carolyn's little brother, as she used to call me, 'Baby Boy,' I just want to thank her for what she meant to me and for giving me this idea to make a difference," Warren said. "I think anything you do in this world, if you do anything to help a child, the world is better by it."
Additional contributions to the "Carolyn's Comforts" fund can be made here.