There’s no doubt University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital is a special place for Minnesota Wild hockey player Jason Zucker and his wife, Carly.
During a visit to our hospital in 2016, Zucker met Tucker Helstrom, a young sports fan diagnosed with osteosarcoma. The two quickly formed an unbreakable bond over their shared enthusiasm for hockey. Sadly, Tucker passed away later that year.
Inspired by their friendship with Tucker, the Zuckers launched a fundraising campaign for the hospital in 2017. The Zuckers’ goal: to create a theater suite where kids in the hospital could watching televised sporting events in a stadium-like environment.
That vision has now come to fruition. On Nov. 26, the hospital celebrated the completion of the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio. The studio includes a theater where young patients and families can watch games on the big screen—but it also serves as a broadcast station capable of audio and video recording. The space will open for full use in early 2019.
“I met Tucker Helstrom a number of years ago at a Minnesota Wild visit to this hospital, right up on the fifth floor,” Jason Zucker said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the hospital on Nov. 26. “Ever since, this hospital has changed our lives.”
Once open, the dual theater and broadcast studio will provide plenty of opportunities for children and families in the hospital.
Staff and patients will be able to use the studio equipment to create interactive programming, including televised hospital bingo, trivia games and even call-in shows featuring hospital care providers. Hospital staff can also use that equipment to broadcast video from events happening elsewhere in the hospital—ranging from crafting sessions to celebrity visits—so that children who cannot leave their hospital rooms can still be part of the action. Young patients will be able to make their own videos in the space, which means the studio will also serve as a therapeutic tool and a creative outlet for hospitalized families.
“With the new Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio, we will be able to do so much more,” said Ashley Wunderlich, interim manager of Child-Family Life Services at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. “We can engage kids about their diagnosis and let them be creative and expressive—these tools meet significant needs.”
On game nights, the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio will transform. Then, family and friends will be able to gather to watch a Minnesota Wild or Minnesota Vikings game on the big screen with a catered meal and other special touches. During those events, the space will resemble a private suite at a professional sporting event.
“I love that we can do both, that we can serve two purposes. It makes us unique among children’s hospitals,” Wunderlich said. “We are working with a donor who really understands our patients’ needs, and the result will have a big impact on our patient community.”
The unique dual vision of the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio was made possible by the Jason and Carly Zucker’s substantial support.
“At the same time that the Zuckers were brainstorming about a family suite, we were searching for a partner to help us bring back our broadcast studio. The two ideas were a perfect match,” said Nick Engbloom, director of development and community partnerships at the University of Minnesota Foundation. “Jason and Carly’s commitment to our patients is truly inspiring.”
In October of 2017, the Zuckers pledged $160,000 to kick off the #Give16 campaign. The campaign encouraged people to donate in multiples of 16—Jason’s jersey number—to make the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio a reality. Jason Zucker himself donated $1,600 for every goal he scored during the 2017 hockey season.
“Carly and I wanted to provide a positive experience for families during challenging times, and a place where the patients and their siblings can just be normal kids,” Jason Zucker said. “We cannot be happier with how the space turned out.”To learn more about the Zucker Family Suite and Broadcast Studio, or to sponsor programming, contact Nick Engbloom at firstname.lastname@example.org.