Donor Profiles


Valerie Stoker

Why are you inspired to donate to ABF?

I think the mission of the Ann Bancroft Foundation is terrific. Like many women, Ann’s life and work are very inspiring to me.

I heard about the Foundation from my sister and friends. I feel lucky to be at the point in my life where I can financially support this organization that helps girls to reach their dreams. It is so important to me that girls can be provided opportunities to thrive as they wish.

Did you have any STEM mentors along the way that helped you get to where you are today? Tell us about how your science career evolved.

I was always interested in science. My father was a physician, and I respected his work but did not think that would be my career goal. When I was in junior and high school, girls were not necessarily encouraged to think of science as a career. I wish I had a mentor but was lucky to have very supportive parents and extended family.

I went to the University of Wisconsin Madison (initially to study oceanography) but discovered I was more interested in biological sciences. I found an advisor in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences who directed me to bacteriology. My bacteriology advisor was a great source of support throughout that education, in addition to a part-time job in the bacteriology department that gave me more insights into that career. I also applied for and received a National Science Foundation undergrad research program summer grant.

I started working in an immunology transplantation lab right after college graduation, working with many scientists, and transplant physicians. Yet, I knew I wanted to eventually work beyond a lab bench and still use the investigative nature of research. I reached out to an epidemiology professor at the University of Minnesota who encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree in public health in epidemiology (studying diseases in populations). He continued to be my mentor throughout my education and career.

My career has been both in academic research and then in the private sector where I was involved in clinical research in medical devices such as orthopedics, cardiac, and Parkinson’s disease. Because science and research are international in nature, I have traveled and worked around the world as well and made some amazing friends/colleagues. My career in science and research has shown that communication skills are valuable including being an important component of a relationship with a mentor, (i.e. the ability to listen and respond).

I would encourage girls and young women to pursue a career in science. There are so many more women in science today and we can support each other, and the ABF programs provide an initial foundation to support.

Maggie Patel

How did you get involved with abf? 

I have been on the ABF Granting Committee since 2015 and also had the pleasure of being a mentor a few years back.  My good friend introduced me to ABF years ago. I lived out of state for a while and couldn't become as actively involved as I would have liked so when I did move back to Minnesota I started reaching out to be active on the granting committee. Since then, it has been my great pleasure to read applications and see the tremendous impact that the foundation has had on so many amazing girls here in Minnesota. 


I continue to support ABF because I think Ann Bancroft is a very inspiring soul and the foundation not only allows girls to experience a new opportunity, it pushes girls to dream big and I will always be in support of that. 

Nadine Sehnert

How did you get involved with abf? 

I attended the gala, invited by a former ABF board member. Now I am a monthly donor.

why is abf important to you?

When I was 17, I wanted very much to participate in the 4-H Arts-In program which would allow me to perform at the Minnesota State Fair.  Unfortunately, my family didn't have the funds to allow me to participate.  An anonymous donor paid the costs for me to attend.  I was so thrilled.  I was able to perform in the Arts-In show at the Minnesota State Fair and also had a significant solo in the show.  This gave me a huge confidence boost as I started my freshman year at the University of Minnesota as a Theatre Arts major.  I understand how important it is to give young women an opportunity to try something and money shouldn't be a barrier to keep anyone from their dreams.  ABF allows any girl to follow a dream - whether it is a current passion or a curiosity to learn more. I appreciate the investment ABF has made in quality staff and other support needed to continue Ann's dream and am glad my small donation can go to not only support individual grants to girls as well as the costs of administering them.

Kelsey Saralampi Stay

How has abf impacted your life?

I am a Trailblazer and donor. I was awarded an ABF grant in high school to attend spring softball training in Florida. My love of the game grew and I earned a scholarship to Bemidji State University, where I played four years as a pitcher. Off the field, I studied Nursing. I recently completed my Doctorate of Nursing Practice and am a licensed Family Nurse Practitioner.

Thank you to everyone at the Ann Bancroft Foundation for helping me follow my dreams and achieve my goals! I hope to be able to continue to donate to ABF to help other Minnesotan girls achieve their dreams.

Megan Wind

After receiving a grant in 2008, why do you choose to give back to abf today?

In 2008, a family friend brought the Dare to Dream Grant to my attention when I was looking at going to a summer intensive for tap dancing. I was 14 at the time and was looking to expand my training, by looking at programs outside of Minnesota and training with some of the best dancers in the world. After receiving the grant, I got more involved with ABF by speaking at and attending events.

Today, I tap dance professionally and teach for Keane Sense of Rhythm. Without the support of the foundation, I wouldn't have been able to access the opportunities that I did and get to where I am today. I also spend a lot of my time outdoors. I enjoy backcountry camping, paddling, and snowboarding. Many of those industries are male-focused, so giving young girls opportunities to grow and thrive in those spaces is very important to me. I currently work at the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, and Ann Bancroft recently spoke at our gala. Her speech reminded me of the impact her foundation had on my life. So I give back to help inspire and grow the next generation of strong, talented women. ABF gave me access to opportunities that helped me pursue my passions in dance when I was younger. This helped shape my future and lead me to where I am today. Every girl deserves the opportunity to pursue their talents and follow their dreams. That is why I continue to support ABF.

Benita Warns

Tell us why ABF inspires you

My name is Benita, I'm 66 years old, and I grew up during a time when there were few organized sports opportunities for girls. I didn't see women and girls doing things that were outside the typical expectations for females. My goals were based on gender expectations because I didn't know better. I wanted to be a rock musician, but girls just didn't do that. If my bike broke, I had to wait for my father or brother to have the time to fix it. 

It took many years for me to discover that I had the natural logic to become a successful industrial engineer, that I had the talent to be a radio announcer, and that I could train and compete in speed roller skating. My family didn't have the money for me to do things like going to a roller rink, so I had no idea that I would grow to love skating and my dream finally came true this year when I won the national championship for women over age 65!

I own a bicycle shop - Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles - and my shop donates ten percent of all income to charity. My business supports the Ann Bancroft Foundation because no girl should have to wait until she is 30 to participate in a sport, or 40 to begin a career in engineering, or 50 to start and grow a business. All girls should have the chance to explore the world and live their dreams. My business may only be able to provide one grant at a time, but that one grant gives one girl an opportunity that I didn't have, and that will change her world so someday she can change ours.

Heather Noble

Heather has jumped in with both feet as a volunteer and donor to ABF. On Give to the Max Day, she was in the office making calls for the granting committee, providing cookies for staff, and carefully timing her donations to try for a GiveMN Golden Ticket.

How did you hear about ABF?

I was a founding member of the UMN Women In Technology (UMN WIT) group and found ABF through outreach activities. UMN WIT is interested in building relationships with like-minded organizations. While the target population is different there are direct connections in the work the two groups are doing.

Why do you support ABF?

I believe in the mission of ABF. I am inspired by the work the foundation does and by the girls who are courageous enough to pursue their dreams. I believe every girl should have the opportunity to explore their potential and ABF is helping to make that a reality.

What has been the most rewarding thing for you as a donor and a volunteer?

As a volunteer, I have been able to witness first-hand the effort that goes into a successful grant cycle, and it is pretty amazing to see all that goes into this process. The awardees are so worthy and the women who run this office work hard to fulfill the mission of the organization. The impact is immeasurable.

What is one thing you want people to know about ABF?

ABF is doing great things for girls in our state. People should support this work in any way they can - and there are so many ways in which you can contribute! Educate girls and activity providers about ABF, become a mentor, volunteer, or donate! You can be selfish in a positive way - it feels good to do good!