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Avera McKennan Foundation

Plaza 4
1325 S. Cliff Avenue
Sioux Falls, SD, 57117

Avera Guardian Awards

Thank you to our generous supporters and community partners for furthering the mission of Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center. As an extension of gratitude, the Avera McKennan Foundation hosts the annual Avera Guardian Awards to recognize key donors and celebrate all those who support the mission.

Spirit Award

Benedictine Sisters of Yankton

Honors individuals who have demonstrated long-term dedication to the mission of Avera McKennan through exceptional commitment.

The Benedictine Sisters have a 1500-year history centered in community and they spend their lives praying and working together. In the 1880's, the Sisters arrived in Dakota Territory to answer a calling to provide health care to frontier towns. They initially opened two hospitals, Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton and St. Mary's Hospital in Pierre.

The Benedictine Sisters joined the Presentation Sisters in 1996 to form a health care sponsorship. The two communities chose one family name, Avera, which revitalized their century-long commitment to health care ministry.

Today, the Sisters continue their century-long tradition of engaging in ministry for the church in such areas as prayers, retreats, education, health care and service to the poor.

Thank you for your dedication to the mission of Avera McKennan.

Helen McKennan Award

Christine Hellekson

Given in recognition of leadership and inspiration that extends past the mission of Avera McKennan to influence and impact the loyal community and beyond.

Christine was born in Munich Germany and came to the United States with her mother when she was eight years old. Today, she is responsible for making a gift to fund the Lung Navigation Program at the Avera Cancer Institute Sioux Falls.

Christine has also served on the steering committee for the Avera Cancer Institute Navigation Center for the past two years and has been an integral member in its overall mission to provide cancer support for the entire region through a 24-hour call center.

Thank you for your dedication to the mission of Avera McKennan.

Cornerstone Award

Hy-Vee, Inc. - Bob Trader

Recognizes a business whose demonstrated outstanding commitment to Avera McKennan. This organization has established a strong internal culture of philanthropy, an ideal characteristic of a community partner.

Hy-Vee has been a long-time supporter of the Avera Race through its Operation Helpful Smile, a giving program that raises dollars to support local cancer survivors and their families.

The employee-owned food and drug retailer recently expanded its partnership with Avera to provide a broader range of health and wellness services, including AveraNow wellness clinics and kiosks in Hy-Vee Sioux Falls stores. They have also initiated the Healthy You Mobile Powered by Avera which provides health and screenings at events by providing a mini-health fair on wheels.

Thank you for your dedication to the mission of Avera McKennan.

Compass Award

Mike and Janice O'Connor

Honors community members who have demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and key roles in advancing the foundation's development goals.

Mike and Janice have served as long-time volunteers at the Dougherty Hospice House, Avera Prince of Peace and the Prairie Center. Both served on the steering committee to support the Focus on Faith Chapel Campaign at Avera Prince of Peace. They also provided a matching gift to raise dollars to fund the start-up of Spiritual Care Program at the Avera Cancer Institute Sioux Falls.

Janice, a breast cancer survivor, currently serves as an Avera Think Pink Lady. This group, formed in 2006, volunteers at community events such as the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer and shares their personal stories to inspire others.

Thank you for your dedication to the mission of Avera McKennan.

Past Winners

Avera Spirit Award

  • Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Walter Panzirer, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust

Helen McKennan Award

  • Bill Dougherty
  • Jeremiah Murphy
  • Jim Woster
  • Tom and Kathy Walsh
  • Avera Medical Group Radiology
  • Cindy Walsh

Cornerstone Award

  • Sioux Falls Construction-Randy Knecht
  • Sodak Distributing-Mike Brzica
  • The First National Bank in Sioux Falls-Bob Baker
  • Sioux Falls Ford Lincoln-Randy Nehring
  • Holiday-Gas Stop-Tom and Melissa Howes
  • Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota-Phil Davis

Compass Award

  • Paul Connelly
  • Lisa Griffin
  • Joe Henkin
  • Judy Davis
  • Peggy Kirby
  • Susan Scott
  • Brad Grossenburg
  • Dr. Patty Peters
  • Dave Fleck
  • Ted Muenster
  • Father Ed Anderson

'The Guardian'

Creating the award

The recognition ceremony featured a special presentation of a custom-crafted award for which select donors were given. This award, which was commissioned by the Avera McKennan Foundation, is a replica of a sculpture currently located on the Avera McKennan Campus. Appropriately titled "The Guardian", the one-foot bronze piece was given to individuals as a gesture of appreciation for their contributions. Click on the image to the right to watch a movie featuring the casting of the bronze sculpture.


Scroll through the photo slider to see event photos. Click on a photo to enlarge the view.