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Living legacy led to wellness name

The new Wellness Center has a name - at least a tentative one, as discovered in the Wellness Talk column, written by Wellness Center Fundraising Committee member Michael Craig.

Craig said the new name will likely be the Maslowski Wellness and Health Research Center, after the family who has agreed to have their trust support the Center with a grant totaling about $1.25 million throughout the next several years.

The Maslowski Charitable Trust has a number of local ties, as Bertha resident Mary Larson is a Maslowski descendant. She and her husband, Bob Larson, a radio personality, were one of the first points of contact between the Maslowski Trust and the Fundraising Committee.

According to the Maslowski Trust's website, the fund's story began when Frank Maslowski, a GI who was serving in World War II, came home for Thanksgiving leave to marry his sweetheart, Eleanor Provos. After Maslowski received his discharge papers, he worked a number of different jobs, including working as a street car driver and a book binder.

When the Maslowskis invested in a tiny medical research company being operated out of a garage, things began to change for them. The company eventually became medical technology giant Medtronic, and the Maslowskis' investment grew substantially.

Fifty years later, Eleanor Maslowski willed all of her Medtronic stock to the formation of the Maslowski Family Trust. When she and Frank passed away, their legacy of giving back was born.

The Maslowski Trust was created with the intention of supporting medical research. So the No. 1 reason for the Wellness Center receiving the grant involved a plan to establish a brand new medical research program to be set up there.

Joel Beiswenger, administrator for Tri-County Health Care, said the general goal of the research will "focus on trying to manage and reduce health risk factors," such as smoking, unsafe driving and unhealthy eating habits.

A specific research plan is still in the works, but Beiswenger said the research study's first participants will likely be his own employees at Tri-County Health Care, and he estimates 250-300 of them might volunteer to be part of the program. However, even though the hospital might have hundreds of potential participants ready for the study, Tri-County has little experience in conducting medical research itself.

"Tri-County Health Care, we're providers. We're really good a providing health care. We have great physicians, we have great nurses and technicians, (but) we are not health research experts," Beiswenger said.

That's where Dr. David Hunnicutt, head of Wellness Council of America, comes in. Hunnicutt went to high school in Wadena with Jeff Browne, who is now president of Wadena State Bank and co-chair of the Wellness Center Fundraising Committee.

When the committee and Tri-County Health Care needed help with getting the Maslowski grant, Browne said they knew who to get in touch with.

It turned out Wellness Council of America, or WELCOA, does exactly the kind of research the Fundraising Committee had envisioned. Browne said WELCOA will now be an integral part of setting up the new program, including donating its time in order to help guide researchers, as well as providing a donation to the building itself.

Browne has high hopes for the possibilities of the new Center, planned to be built in 2014, as well as the research to be conducted there.

"As a result of this building, it will make people more productive, more healthy, more happy ... we are considered one of the most unhealthy counties in the state. If all of the sudden this is a success and we're one of the healthiest counties in the state, we could be a great pilot program for other communities."