Miller-Dwan Foundation: 2022 Year in Review

Here we are! 2022 is coming to a close and as we reflect on the past year, we are grateful, and in awe, of all that has happened. It has been a rollercoaster year as we continue to navigate the pandemic, but we are thankful that you’ve been by our side. Take a look back at some highlights from 2022.


We continue to focus our work on our strategic planning journey that began in May of 2021. We knew it was time to makes some changes to the work we do, not because something was wrong rather because we wanted to be sure we were moving in the right direction. Our mission is big and broad, but we know philanthropy is shifting – so we are getting ready to shift. We are soon coming to the end of our planning, and we cannot wait to share the details with you.

Mental Health Crisis: Douglas County

Our partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Superior was solidified with ongoing meetings set to culminate in a solution to Douglas County’s mental health crisis.


We were so pleased to welcomed Carl Crawford, Dr. Brad Davis and Missy Meierhoff to our existing Board of Directors. Our board is our foundation, and we are so fortunate to have added these three to the group.


Patient using Virtual Reality for physical therapy

Virtual Reality specifically designed for patients who need physical rehabilitation, can take rehabilitation care to the next level. Miller-Dwan Rehabilitation therapists can program each $5,000 VR unit to help individual patients focus on range of motion, balance, cognition and more – whatever they might need. The VR then measures progress allowing therapists to adjust for improvements along the way. The result is brain rewiring at a level we’ve not yet experienced.

Read more here.


Annual Report: Unseen

When we come together to see beyond barriers and despair, we share hope and understanding with those around us. This is what drives the work of the Miller-Dwan Foundation: to see the unseen and address unmet needs. Through your generosity, the Foundation is able to provide the financial support needed to elevate mental health care and physical rehabilitation, provide grace through end-of-life, and bring joy and peace to uncertain times. You can see this humanity in action in the stories of those supported by the Foundation’s work.

Jessie and Bruce’s Story: Concern to Compassion

When it feels like everything is closing in at once, who do you entrust with the care of your beloved grandmother—the one who made everyone around her feel so special? For Jessie and her dad Bruce, Solvay Hospice House became a beacon of compassion, understanding, and peace for their Evelyn at the most difficult time.

Grace’s Story: Unsure to Understood

When Grace’s anxiety became too big to wrap her arms around, she turned to Amberwing: Center for Youth and Family Well-Being. There, she learned the skills to breathe through difficult moments while feeling validated and supported along the way.

Eliot’s Story: Reluctant to Remarkable

A travel and outdoors enthusiast in his 70s, Eliot had no plans to slow down or cut back on his daily three-mile hikes. Then, a Parkinsonism diagnosis changed everything. With the support of Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center, his providers, and his wife Naomi, Eliot made a steadfast commitment that allows him to keep doing what he loves.

Chelsea’s Story: Unspoken Worries to Unleashed Joy

Getting kids in speech therapy to open up and engage isn’t always easy. But having a cheery black Lab retriever there to greet you and learn alongside you can help. That’s what speech pathologist Chelsea hoped for when she sought out a facility dog last year.

National Therapy Animal Day

We celebrated National Therapy Animal Day with some animal-assisted therapy in our office, with special guests Spirit and Gracie, mini therapy horses from Rocky Run Stables, and Nova, the Newfie that owns our hearts. It was a wonderful celebration and a great kick-off to a new and robust animal therapy program. Thanks to everyone who was able to join us!


Animal-Assisted Therapy is back!

Bring on the doggos! We’ve got the green light to bring back some of our volunteer pet therapy teams and Gunner is the first out of the gate. We are so excited to welcome him and his owner Theresa, as well as the other pups.

Click here: to learn more and reach out if you are interested in volunteering with your dog.

Amberwing 10-year anniversary

We were so thrilled to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Amberwing: Center for Youth and Family Well-Being with the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. Ten years have come and gone but nearly 5,000 youth and their families have been positively impacted by the services provided here at Amberwing. It certainly has been a decade of hope, healing and love.

Read the article in The Duluthian Magazine



ARTcetera 2022 was an incredible evening, with over $100,000 raised for mental health in our region, and we couldn’t have been happier to be back in person.

(Save-the-date for ARTcetera 2023: Friday, September 22, 2022)

Artcetera event setup
Artcetera tent
Beautifully set up reception



Whether you’d like to create an activity or join one, the LiveWell Northern WI’s #BetterTogether activity calendar is your chance. #BetterTogether activities are mini activities that allow people to spend time together in a way that inspires joy and wellness and builds connection. The goal is to have an activity scheduled most days of the week in every part of Douglas County. From painting and yoga to birdwatching or a fire by the shore, #BetterTogether is just one way a new collaborative mental health team is addressing the county’s mental health crisis.

This work started in January 2022, when the Miller-Dwan Foundation and the University of Wisconsin-Superior came together to identify innovative ways to address the current mental health crisis experienced not only by our residents but by many of the professionals who are charged directly or indirectly with the physical and mental well-being of others (teachers, therapists, etc.). Also participating are the Douglas County schools, Essentia Health St. Mary’s Hospital, the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation and NAMI.

Other activities, to name a few, include suicide prevention trainings called Gatekeeper Trainings, intentionally created conversation areas, mental health urgent care, school/student strategies and provider retention efforts. As one provider said, “We need to treat our region’s mental health crisis as if it’s a tumor. We need to do everything we can to try to heal. We need to give it all we’ve got.”

In the meantime, check out our calendar to host an activity, attend activities, and meet new people!


Rick Gertsema Joins the Miller-Dwan Foundation Team

Rick Gertsema Headshot

We are thrilled to welcome Rick Gertsema, Mental Health Senior Advisor, to our staff.

Gertsema has worked in a variety of mental health care settings over the 40 years he has been within the field. Most recently, Rick has been the Manager for Outpatient Behavioral Health at Essentia Health and has worked to solidify and strengthen outpatient services, as well as the entire mental health continuum within the hospital system. The experience and skills he will bring to the Miller-Dwan Foundation are pivotal as we take on the renewed focus of eliminating the mental health crisis in the community.

“Having the privilege to help give voice to the Mental Health Crisis in which we all live, being a part of bringing all of us together in creating solutions and creating hope, all while working with the highly respected team at the Miller Foundation is an incredible culmination of a 40+ year career in Behavioral Health,” says Gertsema.

Solvay/Super One Partnership Brings in Record-Breaking Donations

A heartfelt thank you to Super One Foods and our generous community for this incredible donation to Solvay Hospice House! We are grateful for the support to ensure patients and families continue to receive the compassionate care Solvay is known for.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your support and for being a part of the Miller-Dwan Foundation family. We look forward to big things in 2023!

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Together we will realize our shared vision of a community free from mental health crisis.