Bloomington resident Fred Heitke was named 2005 recipient of the Louise Whitbeck Fraser Award for enhancing the lives of people with special needs. The award was presented at Fraser’s annual benefit attended by 750 “friends of Fraser.” Fraser, a local nonprofit organization serving children of all abilities and adults with special needs, was also celebrating 70 years of providing community services.
Having been involved since 1952, 88-year-old Heitke has a record of volunteerism and loyalty that is matched by few. He became involved with Fraser after moving to Minneapolis to find resources to help his son, Jim, who had a seizure and suffered brain damage when he was 18 months old. A doctor told Fred and his wife to institutionalize their son, but that was unacceptable to the Heitkes who continued to care for him in their home. Upon arriving in Minneapolis, they saw a newspaper ad for Fraser School, which at the time was a K-12 school for children with special needs.
According to Fred, visiting Fraser School was one of the most wonderful experiences he’s ever had. He couldn’t believe that anyone would offer to help care for, not to mention educate, a child with his son’s disabilities. But Fraser did, and in so doing, gave Fred and his family a new lease on life.
The Heitke’s son attended Fraser School from 1952 to 1965. At that time, school parents volunteered doing all of the physical labor around the school themselves—everything from sweeping to remodeling. Fred was motivated to help because the more the parents rolled up their sleeves, the more kids they could serve. Fred says that he has never met anyone like Mrs. Fraser. She never turned down a single family who wanted to enroll their child.
Together with other parents, Fred established a board of directors to help with the business side of the organization. He was one of the first six incorporators and served on the operating board for 18 years. He remains active with Fraser through its corporate and honorary boards. Over the years, he has probably participated in more Fraser fundraising activities than anyone, from turkey raffles to social dances. Today, at age 88, he still attends Fraser’s annual benefit and plays 18 holes in the FORE! Fraser Benefit Golf Classic.
Fred says that he has been involved for so long because he is grateful for the way that Fraser changed his life. He wants to do all that he can to assure that Fraser will be here to serve children and adults with disabilities, and their families, for many more generations.
Fraser serves children with developmental disabilities; children who are at risk for abuse and neglect; children with autism or severe emotional and behavioral disorders; parents and families of children with typical and special needs; and adults with developmental disabilities. For more information, call 612-861-1688 or visit www.fraser.org