David Mason, First International Bank & Trust/Bismarck president, and members of his team present a check to the Sanford Health Foundation West Region.

First International Bank & Trust makes lead gift

March 22, 2019

The North Dakota-based bank recently made a $250,000 lead gift to the Above and Beyond campaign for child life in Bismarck.

As a mom of four and a new grandma, Gretchen Stenehjem from First International Bank & Trust knows the helpless feeling of having a sick child.

“As adults, we can’t help but ask ‘Why?’ Imagine what the child must be wondering and thinking,” said Stenehjem, who is also a member of the Sanford Health Foundation West board of directors.

When Stenehjem heard about the Above and Beyond campaign to bring child life to western North Dakota, the idea of helping children cope with an illness and hospital stay tugged at her heartstrings.

Stenehjem with her husband, four children, two grandchildren and the family’s dogs.


“Through music and play, child life specialists help answer those difficult questions, and make the child and family feel cared for and understood,” Stenehjem said. “I believe anything we can do to improve the quality of care for a sick child and bring any amount of relief to the family is well worth the investment.”

With guidance from leaders like Stenehjem, First International Bank & Trust/Bismarck recently made a $250,000 lead gift to the Above and Beyond campaign. This donation will support a $3 million endowment to sustain the child life program in perpetuity.

“As a community bank, our success is measured by more than just a bottom line — more than revenue and assets,” Stenehjem said. “We want to help build vibrant, healthy communities that attract and retain hard workers and spirited entrepreneurs who create new business and economic opportunities.”

With support from generous donors like First International Bank & Trust, Sanford Bismarck launched western North Dakota’s first child life program in November 2018. Funded by philanthropy, families never receive a bill for child life services.

The new team consists of two full-time staff members: Ashley Renton, a certified child life specialist, and Bobbi Jo Vandal, a board-certified music therapist. They work together and in tandem with doctors and nurses to give pediatric patients and their families the best experience possible.

“When you think about where the need is the greatest, it’s where it’s immediate,” Stenehjem said. “Dollars donated to local hospitals and care providers ensure our local families are well taken care of and can improve quality of care for patients who are battling injury or illness right now.”

To learn more about the Above and Beyond campaign and show your support today, visit sanfordhealthfoundation.org/childlife.