Ten years ago, Harmony and Brian Carlson turned to organ donation after losing their newborn son. This summer, they’re using their new River Siren Brewing Company as a launchpad to raise money and awareness.
Carlson’s late son, Van, was diagnosed with a rare disease during pregnancy, and was not expected to live to full term, much less than a previous birth. Knowing this, they reached out to LifeSource, a Twin Cities nonprofit dedicated to organ and tissue donation.
“People don’t like to think about infant death, and it’s hard to talk about it. But we tried to make it positive,” said Harmony Carlson.
The van took everyone by surprise – not only did she make it to full term, but she also survived for five days after delivery. When he passed away, LifeSource was able to complete a rare infant organ donation.
“This summer would have been his 10th birthday. We thought that since we have a stage with the brewery, we could start raising awareness,” Carlson said.
Carlson previously purchased Maple Island Brewery in July 2021. After nearly a year of rebuilding and revamping the beer menu, they are finally ready to open their doors to the community. Sunshine Fest is one way to start things off, said Harmony Carlson.
On Saturday, June 18, Sunshine Fest will be celebrated with food trucks, live music and raffles. The festival will feature a new beer created in Van’s honor, called Sunshine Baby, and the brewery will donate $1 from each pint sold to Lifesource.
donate life city
River Siren Brewing’s approach to the festival came at a good time. In 2021, Stillwater became the nation’s first Donate Life City and made a communitywide commitment to support LifeSource.
“Lifesource, and organ donation as a whole, enjoys a prominent place in our city. We give them signage, social media posts and we support them at events,” said Stillwater City Council member Larry Odebrecht.
Odebrecht also has personal relationships with family members, who have donated and received organs through LifeSource in recent years. He said that when Carlson came to him with his fundraising plan, he was pleased to see that the Donate Life mission was already expanding, he said.
More than 2,000 Minnesotans are on the waiting list for organ donation this year, according to data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. While only 1 percent of people are eligible to donate, only one donor can affect up to eight lives.
Carlson wants to make Sunshine Fest fundraising an annual tradition, and continue to turn the loss of his son into an opportunity for hope.
Harmony Carlson said, “Organ donation can be a really beautiful gift during one’s worst times.”
For more information about Sunshine Fest, visit the Stillwater Events Calendar.