Shannon O'Hara Foundation hits six figures of giving back

The Shannon O'Hara Foundation was started just more than a decade ago, with the ultimate goal of raising $100,000 for cancer research. It's met that goal and has now given away more than that in scholarship funds.

The Shannon O'Hara Foundation held its annual scholarship presentation night on Saturday, handing out eight $3,000 scholarships to high school hockey playing seniors from Rochester. From left to right, Sam Jacobson (Mayo), Dan O'Hara, Abigail Conners (Century/John Marshall), Megan Lutz (Mayo), Grace Oyen (Century/JM), Nina Luke (Century/JM), Adam Hegrenes (John Marshall), Klaus Gilbertson (Century/JM), Nick Weick (Mayo) and Jen O'Hara.
Contributed photo / Shannon O'Hara Foundation

Dan and Jennifer O'Hara set modest goals — or, what may have seemed like pie-in-the-sky goals at the time — when the Shannon O'Hara Foundation was created 11 years ago.

At the time, they were hoping to hit a fundraising goal of $100,000, which they planned to give back to Mayo Clinic (for cancer research) and to high school hockey-playing seniors in Rochester who grew up playing in the Rochester Youth Hockey Association.

Mayo Clinic and RYHA are two of the most important and memorable things about Shannon's life. Shannon — nicknamed "Shannon the Cannon" by her RYHA teammates and coaches — passed away on Jan. 6, 2012, after a nine-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor. She was just 13 at the time.

That same winter, a group of parents of Shannon's teammates pooled together $5,000 to present to the O'Haras. It was the start of a foundation that now has raised more than $350,000 for brain cancer research.

And after presenting eight $3,000 college scholarships to Rochester hockey players on Saturday night, during the first intermission of the Century vs. Mayo boys hockey game at Graham Arena I, the Foundation has given more than $100,000 in scholarships to high school hockey players across the state in the past 10 years.


In fact, the total amount of scholarships presented now sits at $125,000.

Scholarships were presented Saturday to five players from Rochester girls teams — Megan Lutz of Mayo, and Abigail Conners, Nina Luke, Klaus Gilbertson and Grace Oyen of Century/John Marshall. Three Rochester boys hockey players were also awarded scholarships — Adam Hegrenes of John Marshall, and Sam Jacobson and Nick Weick of Mayo.

All of it done to keep the memories of Shannon O'Hara going strong among hockey players of all ages in Rochester.

From the time of her diagnosis until the time she passed away, Shannon constantly kept her friends and family’s spirits up. She showed a strength and determination unlike anything her parents or friends could have expected. She kept playing her favorite sports as long as her body allowed. When she couldn’t play, she was at practices or games, or asking often about her teammates and how their teams were doing.

“She didn’t want to go to Disney or do anything like that,” Dan O’Hara told the Post Bulletin last year. “She wanted to be with her buddies, at school and at hockey and at soccer and at golf. That’s what she wanted to do. That was her deal.”

Shannon O'Hara

Saturday's presentation was the cap of a busy month for the O'Haras.

They also awarded eight $1,000 scholarships to senior hockey players whose teams participated in Hockey Day Minnesota games last month: Lily Anderson and Meredith Anfang of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul; Grady Gallatin and Annika Norman of HDM 2023 host White Bear Lake; Matt Kauppinen (Hermantown); Adria Haley (Forest Lake); Maya Hanlon (Stillwater); Noah Mogren (Mahtomedi) and Caden Sampair (Hill-Murray).

The Shannon O'Hara Foundation began presenting scholarships on Hockey Day Minnesota in 2022, when the event was held in Mankato.


“This will broaden our reach to a state-wide or regional audience,” Jennifer O’Hara told the Post Bulletin prior to Hockey Day Minnesota 2022. “We hope that we reach more people this way, and not just the ... kids who will get scholarships, but families along the way who hear Shannon’s story and take it to heart.

“This is a chance to grow the group of people who Shannon matters to.”

Shannon O'Hara memorial
A memorial for Shannon O'Hara hangs in the lobby at Graham Arena in Rochester. O'Hara died on Jan. 6, 2012, at age 13, after a battle with an inoperable brain tumor. A foundation started in her honor has raised more than $300,000 over the past decade.
Jason Feldman / Post Bulletin

In order to be considered for a scholarship, players must write an essay about what growing up playing in the RYHA meant to them and how it helped them grow as an athlete and a person. The foundation's board of directors chooses the winners.

For more information on the Shannon O'Hara Foundation, or to donate, visit .


2022: Elizabeth Arendt (Mayo), Matt Haun (Century), Camdon Magle (John Marshall), Lizzie Pike (Lourdes), Milla Sadowy (Mayo), Jake Schmidt (JM).

2021: Josh Hanson (Century), Hayden Jones (Mayo), Katherine Thorvilson (Century), Abby Wick (Lourdes).

2020: Megan Andrist (Mayo), Max Cothern (Mayo), Corrin Hanson (Lourdes), Sam Williams (Century).

2019: Skylar Klingfus (Century), Ali Ratzloff (Lourdes).


2018: Claire Brunn (Lourdes), Jason Coyle (JM), Natalie Fink (Century), Max Jones (JM), Maddi Lutz (Mayo), Zach Walston (Lourdes).

2017: Paige Anglin (Mayo), Samantha Jones (JM), Maddie Leqve (Century), John Schmitz (Century).

2016: Abby Marquardt (Mayo), JT Rein (Mayo).

2015: Mitchell Brandhagen (Lourdes), Jake Dravis (JM), Tori Thompson (JM).

2014: Katie Aney (Century), Sam Broman (JM), Bethany Gibson (Mayo).

2013: Rebecca Lorsung (Century), Brian Murray (Mayo).

Jason Feldman is the sports editor of the Post Bulletin. In addition to managing the four-person sports staff at the PB, Jason covers high school football, golf and high school and junior hockey. Readers can reach Jason at 507-281-7430 or
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