Rochester farmer gifts $250K to Ronald McDonald House in memory of his late wife

The donation, described as one of the largest gifts in the organization's history, will support day-to-day operations at the Rochester home and funds a small garden.

Tom Haugen speaks about his late wife, Sue Haugen, at an event honoring his family's large donation to the Ronald McDonald House Charities Midwest MN, WI, IA at the Rochester Ronald McDonald House on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.
Dene K. Dryden / Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — Tom Haugen said he and his wife, Sue Haugen, used to give some money to charity at the start of every month. Sometimes it was the Salvation Army, sometimes it was the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester, and other times it would be somewhere else.

After Sue died, Tom made the decision to give an even bigger gift to honor his wife's memory.

On Wednesday, the Haugen family gathered with Ronald McDonald House employees and guests to celebrate Sue's life and announce a $250,000 donation.

A large portion of the gift, described as one of the largest gifts in the organization's history, will support day-to-day operations at the Rochester home, said Nick Mueller, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Midwest MN, WI, IA.

"Our day-to-day need at the house continues to evolve," Mueller said. "We're proud to highlight that we're serving more families than we ever have before at one time, but that's going to take additional resources."


In the first four months of 2023, Mueller said the Rochester home has hosted nearly 300 families for free while the families' child receives medical care at Mayo Clinic.

"That's a fourfold increase of this exact same time last year," Mueller said.

But one part of Haugen's gift funded two large raised planter boxes in the home's backyard. The intent, Mueller said, is to engage guests in planting, harvesting and cooking the fruits and vegetables growing in those boxes, which are currently home to tomato and strawberry plants.

Tom Haugen said Sue had a love for her houseplants and helping him on their farm north of Rochester.

Two raised planter boxes at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester were purchased through a gift given by the Haugen family.
Dene K. Dryden / Post Bulletin

"The yard was always so well-kept in the summer," Haugen said. "She was a birdwatcher. Loved the farm, just loved the farm."

Mueller said the planters are a fitting way recognize Sue and the Haugens' farming background.

"I have no doubt that the joy, laughter and fun that the children will have playing around the garden beds and the conversation and the joy that we have as families break bread together will be a fitting way to celebrate Sue's legacy," Mueller said.

The gift comes three months after the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester merged with the Ronald McDonald Charities of Western Wisconsin and Southeastern Minnesota, expanding the organization's reach and the financial support it needs to continue its operations.

Dené K. Dryden is the Post Bulletin's health reporter. She previously covered the Southeast Minnesota region for the Post Bulletin. Dené's a Kansas expat who moved to Minnesota in 2020 and joined the Post Bulletin in 2022. Readers can reach Dené at 507-281-7488 and
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