July 25, 2017
When Jason and Heather Ahrendt learned about Ava’s House by Sanford, they knew they wanted to be a part of it. They were especially drawn to the idea that the multi-generational hospice facility will be one of only four in the nation to offer in-patient care for children and young adults, and it would be the perfect place to honor their nephew Landon.
“The biggest impact that Landon has had on our lives is that we are all committed to ‘doing something,’” Jason said. “Our family is committed to helping others that are going through what we went through.”
Landon, Jason’s brother’s son, was filled with positivity and spirit.
“He simply loved being a kid,” Jason said. “He loved to play sports and loved to do magic tricks.”
Just after turning 9 years old, a lump showed up on Landon’s foot. It didn’t bother him, but Landon’s parents knew something wasn’t right.
A month later, Jason and Heather heard the news.
“They had seen different doctors, gone through tests and did a biopsy,” Heather recalled. “It was already stage 4 at that point with five tumors in his lungs.”
Jason and Heather were devastated.
“It was hard to believe when he had no other signs that he was sick,” she said. “It’s just one of those things you think, ‘Well, it doesn’t happen to me.’ Until it does.”
After a 21-month battle, Landon passed away. It was one of the most painful times their family had ever experienced.
“His death made a clear picture for me about what’s important in life,” Jason said.
Ava’s House brought a renewed sense of hope to the Sioux Falls couple’s hearts and a way to memorialize Landon.
The new hospice facility will ensure that patients have a comforting place to turn when symptoms and pain are beyond the scope of care currently provided at the Sanford Hospice Cottages or delivered in the hospital, long-term care facilities or in-home settings.
It will open this fall, thanks to generous community support for the Gift of Time campaign. The campaign carries a goal of $15 million — $10 million for the construction of Ava’s House and $5 million for an operational endowment. More than $9.8 million has been raised to-date.
Jason and Heather graciously gave their gift to sponsor a meditative walking path around the building.
The path will connect to each suite and feature inspirational imagery and beautiful landscaping. This peaceful setting will offer patients and their loved ones a quiet place to walk and reflect amidst natural surroundings.
“We just love the outdoors and there’s something about being able to go outside to get fresh air,” Heather said. “Whether it’s the family needing a break from inside or the people there getting out and having sunlight on their faces, we want them to find peace and hope.”
Supporting Ava’s House was also an easy decision because the Ahrendts are already so connected to Sanford Health. Heather is currently a physical therapist at Sanford who’s worked here since 1999. Jason’s State Farm Insurance Agency is a longtime supporter of Children’s Miracle Network, and the couple generously supported Sanford Children’s Hospital during its construction in 2006, in honor of their own children, Gabbie and Lincoln.
Above all, they want to inspire others in the community to support Ava’s House, too.
“I hope our gift spurs others to do the same, I really do, because Sioux Falls is such a giving community,” Jason said.