Foundation Friday : Cullen Children’s Foundation

Many know Matt Cullen as the newest Pittsburgh Penguin or the center who helped the Carolina Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup. They know him for playing over 1,000 games in the NHL with 8 different teams and tallying over 600 points thus far. Even people in Italy know the Cullen name. During the 2004-05 lockout season he led the Italian Serie A League in scoring, 27 goals and 33 assists, while playing for SG Cortina.

What people don’t know is the passion Cullen and his wife, Bridget, have for children’s health. A passion so big they decided to start a foundation called the Cullen Children’s Foundation, also known as Cully’s Kids.

photo credit : Cullen Children’s Foundation

A few things led to the creation of the foundation and how it is run today.

During a physical with the Minnesota Wild in 2003 doctors spotted a mole on Mark Cullen, Matt’s brother, back. Immediately the mole was removed and tested. When the results came back it turned out he had malignant melanoma. Luckily, the cancer had not spread and what the doctors had removed when they took the mole out was the all of the cancer.

During the fall of 2003 Matt and Bridget Cullen made the executive decision to begin the paperwork to start the foundation.

Leading up to the 2004-05 lockout season Matt and Bridget came up with their first fundraising event for the Cullen Children’s Foundation, their wedding.

For our wedding we asked people to donate, if they could, to the foundation to kind of get us started.

  • Bridget Cullen

Not long after their wedding the Cullens would head to Italy for the season. While there they met a boy named Jacopo who changed their life.

While we were in Italy, during the lockout, we met a really sweet sweet boy (Jacopo) who had cancer. We got really close to him and his family. Then it just hit home more that we really needed to do something.

  • Bridget Cullen

After meeting Jacopo and spending time with his family the Cullens knew deep in their hearts they wanted to focus their foundation on children who were battling cancer.

In 2008, Jacopo lost his battle with cancer. To this day everything the Cullens do through their foundation is their way of honoring the sweet little boy who came into their lives and filled their hearts with so much love.

For the first ten years of the foundation the Cullens grinded hard to raise money. Every year they would have a three-day fundraising extravaganza. There was a golf tournament, an auction, a party, and a picnic for the kids. However, the Cullens were beginning to burn themselves out and needed to slow things down a little.

We kind of took a break from doing our big event that we do and just had a pig roast to thank everyone. Just to kind of come down a little bit. It’s a little intense to do this kind of fundraiser three days in a row every year.

  • Bridget Cullen

So, how are they able to continue to support their foundation? The sponsors they’ve had since the beginning continue to donate and support the Cullen Children’s Foundation.

We have a really good group of sponsors and donors that are really loyal to us. We are just really blessed that way.

  • Bridget Cullen

Thanks to these donors the foundation is able to start gifting our of their endowment while they try to figure out what direction to take next.

We hit it hard for 10 years and now the foundation is reaping the benefits.

  • Bridget Cullen


The Cullen Children’s Foundation has a grant process that organizations have to follow if they want to receive money. In the beginning the foundation gave money to just about everyone. As they grew they decided to narrow the pool down a little.

These are groups we feel help with children’s healthcare the most. If they have an emphasis on childhood cancer then we pretty much definitely will fund it. That’s our focus, childhood cancer.

  • Bridget Cullen


Below are a few of the organizations who have reaped the benefits of the Cullen Children’s Foundation hard work.

DMF Lend-A-Hand for Kids

DMF Lend-A-Hand for Kids is a program within the Dakota Medical Foundation which helps those who are raising funds for someone in medical crisis. Lend-A-Hand provides a fundraising toolkit to help those putting on a benefit dinner or fundraising event. Inside the toolkit are things like a planning worksheet, news releases, and fundraising forms.

Lend-A-Hand’s program director will also help organizations navigate through the toolkit and help them through the entire experience. Organizations may also apply for a matching funds program where Lend-A-Hand will match donations up to $5,000.


Since 1992, HOPE Inc  has provided the area around Moorhead, MN with activities for children with mobility challenges. The program even has equipment that is adaptable to every type of person so family and friends can join in on the fun.


Located in central Minnesota, Kamp KACE has been giving children going through cancer treatments a normal camp experience for the past 29 years.

They have doctors and nurses on site to administer meds to the children.

Make-A-Wish Foundation

Most children have big dreams they one day hope to see come true. For some children the chance of wathcing thdreams are cut short by an earth shattering diagnosis. When all hope seems lost the Make-A-Wish Foundation steps in and helps make a child’s wish come true, no matter how big or small.

Sanford Children’s Hospital

Sanford Children’s Hospital is located in Fargo, ND and provides children with inspiration and healing. At the hospital play is deemed just as important as medicine. By playing and creating children are able to reduce their levels of stress and anxiety. Their “Child Life” team also helps children understand what they are going through by using medical play and distraction therapy.

Sanford Children’s Hospital Fargo is the only level II trauma center in North Dakota and western Minnesota.

Sanford Foundation

The Sanford Foundation helps support Sanford Health located in North Dakota. Children’s Miracle Network is also part of the Sanford Foundation. As well as their campaign dedicated to the future of health care in the region called “Building Tomorrow Today“.

Riding on Angels Wings

Riding on Angels Wings is an organization that allows children with special needs to enjoy equine (horse) assisted activities. They believe horseback riding is for all children regardless of their mobility and provides another form of therapy for special needs children.

Ronald McDonald House

The Ronald McDonald House of Fargo allows families to stay together during their child’s treatments. Often times parents have to choose between whether to leave their sick child at the hospital or leave their healthy child with a sitter for multiple days, even weeks. Thanks to the Ronald McDonald House parents no longer have to make the choice and can still maintain a fairly normal lifestyle.

Essentia Health

Although Essentia Health is headquartered in Minnesota they also serve patients throughout Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Idaho. With 17 hospitals, 67 clinics, 8 long-term care facilities, 2 assisted living facilities, 5 independent living facilities, 5 ambulance services, and a research institute in 4 states, Essentia Health has no problem adhering to their motto “Here With You”.

UND Pediatric Division of Medical Genetics

UND Pediatric Division of Medical Genetics is part of UND’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences. They are able to help families gain a glimpse into the future of their child’s health. As well as look at a child’s illness in a different light so they may properly treat them.


For more information on donating to the Cullen Children’s Foundation head to their website;