Leaving Lasting Legacies: How CFO Eric Skalland Started Beads of Courage Program at North Memorial Health Hospital


United Properties’ CFO Eric Skalland and his wife Amanda spent 80 days in the NICU at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, MN after their daughter, Elin, was born 12 weeks premature. Those 80 days spent in the hospital were filled with uncertainty, worry, and apprehension. “The whole time you’re in the NICU, you never know when you’re going to take your child home,” Skalland explains.

On June 26, 2016 – an “awesome day,” Eric remembers – they received the news that they could take Elin home. As they watched Elin grow and thrive, they knew they wanted to give something back to the hospital that had given them so much.

When they heard about a program called “Beads of Courage” from a NICU nurse, they thought that bringing the program to North Memorial’s NICU staff and parents would be a way to leave a lasting legacy. The Skallands contacted the North Memorial Foundation to jumpstart the Beads of Courage program in the NICU in September of 2017, and the rest is history.

One Bead at a Time

Beads of Courage is used in many children’s hospitals nationwide to help families see the positives of their child’s treatment journey. Using colorful beads as a daily reminder of courage and hope, each day a bead is added to a string to represent a milestone that has happened. Whether it’s something as eventful as getting off the respirator or simply just living another day in the hospital, the beads serve as a physical representation of their time in the NICU, as well as a reminder of how much they’ve overcome.

According to Skalland, the Beads of Courage program helps “foster a human side of a relationship between doctors, nurses, and families.” One bead at a time, the families can better communicate with the medical staff about what their child is going through and how they can stay positive throughout the process. “There’s not always a lot of opportunity to think about the positives, and there were many days where all we thought about were the negatives,” says Skalland. With a recurring daily reminder about something positive, families are better able to stay positive themselves, celebrate milestones with their child’s nurses and doctors, serve as an advocate for their child, and overall have a more positive experience in the NICU.

The Skalland Legacy

The program launched in April of 2018, and the Skallands will receive quarterly reports about the program. Additionally, they will visit the NICU periodically to encourage families to stay positive and be a strong advocate for their baby.

According to Skalland, the program is doing what it’s supposed to be doing at the hospital: bringing nurses, doctors, and families together to remind them of the positive aspects of their child’s treatment journey.

Today, Elin is a happy, thriving two-year old. And with help from United Properties and the Pohlad Companies, the Skallands have agreed to fund the program for a minimum of three years, continuing to leave a lasting legacy and provide strength and comfort to other families who, like theirs, spent long days in the NICU department.

Eric and Amanda Skalland with their daughter Elin
Eric Skalland (left) with his wife, Amanda (right), and their daughter Elin (center)

More information on the Beads of Courage program can be seen on their website.