Frank and JoAndrea Larson bought their first bank in Oakes, N.D., 50 years ago. Their son Craig and his wife, Shelley, are helping continue their legacy.

Starion Bank believes in helping our community

May 28, 2019

Frank Larson started his banking career with the hope to help the community and his customers be successful. For the past 50 years, he’s brought those values to Starion Bank and passed them on to his son Craig.

“My father is a community builder,” said Craig who is now the Starion CEO and chairman of the board. “He taught me that we have a responsibility as business owners and as people who can make a difference in the community. We not only want to help our customers within the walls of our banks, we want to make our community a better place to live and work.”

Since Frank and his wife, JoAndrea, bought their first bank in Oakes, N.D., in 1969, Starion Bank has grown to 12 locations in North Dakota and three in Wisconsin with 250 employees.

With the guidance of Craig and his wife, Shelley, Starion Bank recently made a gift to a cause they are personally passionate about: helping local sick and injured kids through the Sanford Health Foundation’s Above and Beyond campaign for child life.

Their gift and the support of donors like them benefits Sanford Bismarck’s child life program and ensures the complimentary service will always be available in our region.


Giving from the heart

Craig and Shelley were moved to make their gift by their own experiences with their daughters, Paige and Annika. Both girls were born early and spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Paige was born eight weeks early and spent seven weeks and five days in the NICU. She was on a respirator, required surgery, and for the first two years of her life, struggled to stay healthy.

Then when Shelley was pregnant with Annika, she needed to be hospitalized and put on bed rest due to complications with the pregnancy. Paige, who was just 4 years old, entered the hospital to see her mother covered in tubes.

“As much as I tried not to show my fear, it’s hard to keep children from sensing that,” Shelley said. “The poor thing was so scared. It was a freaky experience.”

After nine weeks of bed rest for Shelley, Annika was born about a month early. Annika didn’t require as much care as her older sister, but the whole experience was still traumatic for the young family, especially for young Paige.

“We didn’t know how to communicate and support Paige,” Craig said. “We tried to do the best we could, but it was really hard. If she would have had someone to talk to who understood child development, that would have been so helpful.”

Despite their early health troubles, Paige and Annika are doing great today. Paige just started her career in marketing, and Annika is studying public affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles.


Life-changing support

Shelley and Craig look back at both experiences and wonder how their family’s experience could have been different if a child life specialist had been there to help them through.

Today, Sanford Bismarck has the region’s only certified child life specialist as well as a board-certified music therapist. They help children and families like the Larsons cope with the emotional stress and uncertainty of a hospital stay.

“I wonder about if we would have had somebody to help us navigate these experiences all those years ago,” Craig said. “It would have been life-changing and a big comfort.”

When Craig and Shelley heard about the child life program, they were eager to get involved.

“The child life program shows that Sanford truly cares about their patients and providing the highest level of care,” Shelley said. “Having this program supported by philanthropy is how it should be.”

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