‘Bands for Ben’ burgeons with New Year

WORTHINGTON -- For many young couples, New Year's Eve 2016 was a carefree night of celebration and revelry, capped with champagne and midnight kisses.

Jesse Raudenbush and Brittany Boomgarden, along with daughter Jordan, share a moment of treasured family time with son Benjamin. Benjamin remains hospitalized at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital due to health complications following his premature birth on Nov. 12. (Submitted photo)

WORTHINGTON - For many young couples, New Year’s Eve 2016 was a carefree night of celebration and revelry, capped with champagne and midnight kisses.

But Brittany Boomgarden and Jesse Raudenbush were content to spend a quiet evening at the Lakeville home of Raudenbush’s sister, Lynne Sather, happy to have their 3-year-old daughter Jordan with them and grateful for a comfortable haven near the hospital where their infant son, Benjamin, is undergoing round-the-clock care.

“Some days he’s way better, some days he’s not as good,” summed Boomgarden, a 2008 Worthington High School (WHS) graduate whose son was born nearly six weeks early on Nov. 12.


Doctors in Sioux Falls, S.D., initially suspected Ben had hemochromatosis (a genetic disorder that causes excess iron to be deposited in the liver), but a later test showed him to be suffering from a rare form of enterovirus - a strain that specialists at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital have seen only once in the past five years.

“We’re hoping to see if his liver will recover,” said Boomgarden. “We’re just taking things day by day.”

Boomgarden, an employee of the Worthington Hy-Vee store, has been unable to work since Ben’s birth. Raudenbush, a 2004 graduate of Southwest Star Concept High School, has managed to work only sporadically in the last two months, as being present for his family and for critical medical decisions regarding Ben takes precedence.

Aware of the couple’s plight, sympathetic co-workers of Boomgarden’s who happen to be current WHS students blended their need for a class business project with a desire to help the Boomgarden/Raudenbush family meet their surging medical, travel and maintenance expenses.


“We’re currently studying different types of business ownership in economics, and the students chose to work together on a corporation structure,” explained WHS business education teacher Penny Troe.

“Two girls in my class told about this family that was struggling with an ill pre-term baby, and the students liked the idea of helping them while also raising awareness for a cause.”

The nine-member class brainstormed ideas and settled on two products: “Bands for Ben” and “Ribbons for Premature Birth.”

“They had to research the various product options and the costs involved, and then calculate the prices and profits,” said Troe. “After finding something they all approved of, they had to do the design and decide on the type of shipping and production timelines.


“It really was a thoroughly educational process for them.”

Late last week, Troe was hoping the bands and ribbons would be delivered in time for students to begin selling them when school resumed today at WHS. When the items arrived on Friday, sales began immediately at area businesses the students had previously contacted-and the initial shipment of 300 bands was nearly sold out only 24 hours later.

“The students are also learning about supply and demand,” Troe stressed. “Another 800 bands have already been ordered.”

Troe’s students carefully researched potential suppliers to ensure they could maximize profit margins and the amount of money raised for Ben’s family.

“They thought they could make at least $200, but I’m thinking it will be over $1,000 now,” said Troe.

“Once they found a cause they believed in, the project was like a balloon and really inflated.”

Additional educational elements for Troe’s class arose from the requirement to receive school approval before moving forward.

“For the project to officially launch, the students had to present their idea to the principal, so they put together a PowerPoint presentation and each student had a slide and speaking part,” she noted. “They also created a flyer for distribution and publicity purposes.

“It’s been really fun to see the students grow from this project and buy into it, and they’re learning how easy it is to spread the word using social media outlets, as well as more traditional communication means like the radio and newspaper.”

As the students’ efforts advanced, other local businesses and organizations have stepped forward, too.

“So many businesses are offering ideas, and it continues to grow,” said Troe, who is clearly thrilled that her economics class has gained in entrepreneurial awareness while simultaneously raising money for a family in need.

Meanwhile, little Ben continues to undergo 24-hour dialysis treatments at the U of M Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, where Boomgarden and Raudenbush spend most of their waking hours.

“I’ve been staying at the Ronald McDonald House,” Boomgarden shared. “They do a good job of trying to make you feel more at home, but we basically hang out at the hospital all the time; the days get to be long.”

With the help of Sather and other family members, daughter Jordan is cared for and has been able to see her parents and baby brother at least every other week.

“She’s healthy, and we’ve had a lot of family assistance,” said Boomgarden.

Understandably, Ben is the primary focus at present for Boomgarden and Raudenbush, but the couple is grateful for all that’s being done - not only by their family, but also by Troe’s class and others in the Worthington area.

“We appreciate the support,” Boomgarden said simply. “It’s awesome that everyone is coming together to help us out through everything.”

“Bands for Ben” and “Ribbons for Premature Birth” are available for purchase at the Worthington Hy-Vee store, at Bob & Steve’s Holiday station and at Worthington High School. A benefit account for Ben Raudenbush is open for contributions at First State Bank Southwest, and a Caring Bridge account exists in his name (Benjamin Bruce Raudenbush).

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