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Park Rapids family received assistance from Spare Key while son was hospitalized

Spare Key, a non-profit charitable organization providing assistance to Minnesota homeowners with critically ill or seriously injured children, was in the news this week.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty praised the organization that's helped nearly 1,000 Minnesota families by making a mortgage payment on the family's behalf, allowing them to spend time with their child.

A Park Rapids family was among the beneficiaries of the program when Eddie, the 14-year-old son of Gaylord and Lisa Carlson, was hospitalized and diagnosed with Crohn's disease last summer.

The family had health insurance but had to pay deductibles, hotel costs, and travel back and forth from Park Rapids while their son was hospitalized.

During the hospital stay, a social worker told the Carlsons about Spare Key. The program was founded in 1997 by a couple after their 2-year-old died. Born with a genetic birth defect, the baby endured numerous surgeries.

The parents of the baby, Patsy and Robb Keech, were torn between staying with their child and going to work in order to maintain financial stability. Family and friends rallied to raise funds to pay their mortgage.

The Keeches determined the only way to pay back the kindness was to "pay it forward"- to assist families living through their experience.

Lisa Carlson completed the application form in the hospital.

"I really didn't expect to get anything but felt it couldn't hurt to tell our story," she said.

"When we were back home, the bills medical and credit card bills started coming in," Lisa Carlson said. "The day Spare Key called me, I had just received the bill for the hotel and it had been over $1,000.  I was wondering how long it would take us to pay that off."

Her question was answered.

This week, Spare Key unveiled a 30-day "Unlock a Million Priceless Moments" campaign to raise the organization's millionth dollar of mortgage support to a Minnesota family with a sick child.

To learn more about the organization or make a donation, go to