The Mississippi River gives us life.

At Friends of the Mississippi River's virtual gala on September 30, 2021, we were honored to share stories about how the river heals us and how we heal the river in turn.

Thank you to the 478 of you who joined us to hear these stories.

Storytellers included: Kia Johnson, Jennifer Larson, Dr. Gwen Westerman, and Cole and Bryan Williams. Miss Shannan Paul was our host.

How the river heals us

Dr. Gwen Westerman, the new poet laureate of Minnesota, offered a poem from the chorus of living things for the sentinels of the river — the mussels that mark resilience, struggles and restoration in their shells.

"How do we heal our river without healing ourselves?

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Local friend of the river Jennifer Larson remembered how her spouse dealt with a cancer diagnosis by making "a prescription for himself, like a doctor's prescription, to go to the river every day for his own healing."

"Every day, he would walk slowly and sit by the river, and listen for its wisdom and its grace."

* * *

Kia Johnson, a social justice advocate and youth organizer from the Twin Cities wrote a letter to the river.

"You took me in. After all, you’re a healer and I needed healing."

* * *

Cole and Bryan Williams, FMR volunteers, shared their deep connections to the Mississippi River through COVID.

"Last year when the pandemic started, we began to rely heavily on the river for solace and recuperation, especially as Bryan's work intensified ... at one of the country's first COVID-only hospitals."

* * *

How we heal the river

We showcased the projects our staff and board members are passionate about — projects that restore connections between communities, land and water here in the metro area and downstream.

* * *

Together we raised more than $160,000 to continue this vital work.


Our generous sponsors:


Steve & Susan Boren King • Stewart & Lesley Crosby • Chad & Maggie Dayton • Judson Dayton & Shelley Mydra-Dayton • Peter & Mary Gove • Art Kaemmer, M.D. • Julia Olmstead & Paul Helgeson • Paul & Mary Reyelts • Susan Vento


Catherine Asher • Sharon & Terry Avent • Ronnie & Roger Brooks • Ellen & Peter Brown • Whitney & Sarah Clark • Page & Jay Cowles • Ellie Crosby • Forrest & Lisa Flint • Nancy Gibson & Ron Sternal • Dan Gjelten & Lisa Burke • Bud & Carol Hayden • Tony & Diane Hofstede • Hokan & Penny Miller • Ford & Catherine Nicholson • Susan Davis Price • John & Marsha Soucheray • Deanna Wiener & Jim Tilsen • Philip Willkie • Kate Wolford & Ed Reilly • Della & Will Young


John Anfinson • Peter Bachman & Janet Rice • Steve Christenson & Lisa Hondros • Sara & Sean DeKok • Judy & Ozzie Enroth • Tessa Enroth & Michael Jones • Kit & Bill Prendergast • Diane & Darryl Sannes • Kathleen Stack • Bob & Sandy Tilsen • Cathy Tobias


Leslie Cohan & Todd Norsten • George Dunn & Donna Harris • Daniel Engstrom & Barbara Coffin • Ron Kroese & Kimberly Colburn • Phil Riveness • Harry & Ginny Sieben • Michael & Gretchen Sieben • Marcia Townley

Corporate Support




Boyum Barenscheer • Cardno • Foundation Technologies • Minnesota Native Landscapes • SEA LIFE at Mall of America


Kraus-Anderson Insurance • Bremer Bank • Clean Energy Credit Union

The photo of Gwen Westerman was taken by Anna Botz; the videos of Jennifer Larson and FMR staff and board members were produced by Donnie Koshiol of River Street Creative; the video of Cole and Bryan Williams was produced by Mike Durenberger; Rahn + Co. created our event illustration.