"Digs" the turtle outwitted the competition, stormed to victory and claimed the title "Grandest Turtle of All" at our 31st annual Turtle Derby, held June 23 on the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital grounds.
The Turtle Derby is a free-to-attend fundraising event for the hospital community and members of the public. It helps provide many of the extras that make our children's hospital a healing place for our patients and families. Each year, individuals families, hospital staff and others all sponsor one or more racing turtles. In the past, this sponsorship money has funded the purchase of hearing aid support supplies, end-of-life memory-making activities, books, anxiety-reducing toys for our pediatric clinics, musical instruments, artwork for our patient rooms and a variety of other items used directly by our patients and families. This year, the winning turtle was sponsored by the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital Health Information Management team—which also entered 15 other racing turtles in the derby!
The annual derby isn't only about competition and fundraising. For many of our patients and families, it's a chance to get outside, participate in a friendly event and step away from the health concerns that brought them to the hospital. In addition to the races, attendees can enjoy games, food, prizes, visits with therapy dogs, a dunk tank and other activities.
"Who couldn't love this? It's a carnival for everybody," said Kimberly Maas, a member of the children's hospital staff who helps organize the event each year. "For one day, patients can come out and they don't have to think about being sick."
The event is broadcast live on hospital television, so patients who are unable to attend in person can tune in and cheer for their favorite turtles from their hospital rooms. Many former patients and families also visit the event.
"For us, it's really exciting, because we end up seeing a lot of people who have kids we've taken care of in years past," said Pediatric Critical Care Physician Sameer Gupta, MD, who helped emcee the races and participated in the dunk tank event this year. "We get to see them again and see how they've grown and gotten healthy over the years."