Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Traci LeBrun
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Giving back in the spirit of Grace


Colette Stadin

In addition to labels made with Gracelynn's artwork and signature, a card, with a description of the project and photos of Gracelynn, is attached to each item.

A special project has been taking place in memory and honor of a very special girl. The inspiration of the project comes from the very heart of who Gracelynn Rae Stadin was - a girl who loved abundantly and generously gave from her heart.

"We had the 'perfect' family - a strong husband and wife team and three beautiful children, two boys and one girl," stated Colette Stadin, Gracelynn's mother and founder of the Gillette hats for kids project. "Grace was our 'spirited' child, always the one to speak her mind and was perhaps a little dramatic, but loved like no other."

Grace was not unlike many other children in that she loved to dress up, do cartwheels, chew bubblegum and draw pictures. But what set her apart was the love and generosity that was observed by all who knew her.

A relative described Grace as being in love with love. She wrote little love notes to many she came in contact with - even carving "I love mom" on the window trim of the family home.

"Grace was a goofball, with an awesome sense of humor (like her dad) and was friends with everybody ­- children and adults alike," recalled Stadin. "She loved to give gifts, often rummaging through her own belongings, choosing items she really liked so she could spread the joy of opening a gift to her friends and family."

On the morning of April 24, 2015, Colette, Sam and Grace got in the family vehicle to run an errand then head to school. They didn't make it to school that day, having been involved in a crash at the intersection of Deerfield Road and Highway 23 in Kerrick.

Stadin and her son sustained injuries including broken ribs, bruises and scrapes. But Grace was injured much worse and was brought by ambulance to Mercy Hospital and then flown to Gillette Children's Hospital, where the family would say goodbye to her two days later on April 26, her 8½ year birthday.

"Due to her injuries, her head was cold, and we asked if they had something to warm her head. We knew this was more for us than her, but as a parent, you so desperately want to make your children feel better when they are hurt," recalled Stadin. "With Grace, there was nothing we could do. The only thing we could do was ask for something to warm her precious head. They did not have hats for bigger children, just babies, so the hospital staff used warm swaddling blankets to keep her head warm."

After losing Grace, the family had to keep occupied. "At first, we needed to keep physically busy, exhaust our bodies so sleep would come. So we created our 'Gracie Garden,' a garden at our home with flowers, flowering trees, sitting areas, a pond and a fireplace. It's a beautiful place to enjoy nature's beauty and talk to Grace," stated Stadin.

As winter arrived, Stadin felt she needed a new project and contacted a few friends to make crocheted hats and blankets to send to Gillette.

Nearly 70 items were worked on by several people including Maddy Stadin (Grace's cousin), Lynn Vongroven, Joyce Tabor, Sara Sharma, Colette Stadin, Mike Stevens (Grace's uncle who created the tags placed on the hats and blankets), Dolly Phaller (Grace's grandmother) and Kathy Lundgren.

"The hats fill the need we discovered during our stay at the hospital. They're given in Grace's honor, and my hope is that perhaps they spread the joy of gift-giving that Grace loved so much," said Stadin.

"It felt like we were giving parents a sort of comfort," recalled Grace's cousin Maddy Stadin. "Not having the hat for Grace left us upset, not upset at Gillette, but that she was really cold. And we wanted her to be comfortable. Giving parents and families a feeling that we didn't really have made me feel nice."

In a special effort to personalize the items, Grace's signature and artwork were used by her uncle, Mike, to create a label to be sewn on the hats. "She was so proud of herself for writing her name in cursive, and we used a drawing of two swans in love that she drew the night before the accident to create clothing labels to be sewn on the items to send to Gillette," stated Stadin.

"This seemed like something she (Grace) would do," stated Mike Stevens, Grace's uncle. "It was fitting to give back in the spirit of Grace. Grace was always welcoming and a caring kid for how old she was. The whole department at Gillette handled everything perfectly. We got to do handprints with Grace in that situation and they had materials for activities for the kids to keep busy. Anything we could give the kids at Gillette seemed necessary."

Advantage Emblem & Screen Printing out of Duluth, Stevens' employer, contributed the printing and artwork for free. "They are the same owners of Bentleyville. They were great. They didn't even question it and did all the art and printing for free," stated Stevens.

"We never really know what a hat can do for someone in need," stated Joyce Tabor who crocheted many of the hats. "We often take those things for granted."

Colette Stadin

Dolly Phaller (Gracelynn's grandmother) sews the unique labels onto the handcrafted items.

The hats and blankets were delivered on March 8 by friends of the family, Tammy Westerberg and her daughter Leslie of Moose Lake, who make regular visits to Gillette for Leslie's appointments. "They (the children at Gillette) really get excited. It means a lot to these kids when they come in to have something special," stated Westerberg. "The doctors and nurses really enjoy getting that kind of thing, that they can pass on to patients. Other families have given things to Leslie when she was there, and it means a lot."

Stadin envisions the effort will continue. "My hope is to one day see a child wearing one of the hats. I won't need to say anything, just seeing a little bit of Grace out there is all I want," said Stadin. "It warms my heart to spread some 'Gracie love' to others, and the more I can do in her memory, the easier it is to get through the day."

Stadin added that the creation of a memorial park in Grace's name was recently approved by the Kerrick City Council.

"We can't have her back, but at least we can spread the love she loved so much," stated Stadin.

If anyone would like to contribute hats or hand-made items to the Gillette project, please contact Colette Stadin at


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