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Children’s Minnesota Rolls into VandenBerge


A brand new ‘ride’ rolled into VandenBerge Middle School in Elk River on Wednesday, Nov. 8, complete with flashing lights, a honking horn and a couple state-of-the-art sirens.

It wasn’t a school emergency, but Children’s Minnesota was more than happy to show off its new wheels for students, thanks to the assistance of sixth-grader Julia Pobuda.

The new, rolling critical care unit was “open for business” at VandenBerge, as mr. Rick Michalak’s seventh-grade health class got an up-close-and-personal tour. The new rig features everything from pneumatic seats and safety measures for the driver to astounding technological advantages for patients and families.

“It can handle the smallest patients – our neonatal patients who can’t be airlifted for one reason or another,” said one of the Children’s Minnesota team. “It can also help any child injured in an accident or fighting an illness get to our hospitals safely.”

What part did Julia play in all of this? Well, at age 5, Julia was diagnosed with a rare form of asthma, which can get triggered by common viruses, such as the cold virus. She had lengthy stays at Children’s as a kindergartner and elementary student. And she’s still fighting – a cold recently sent her to the hospital for a couple of days just recently.

“I have setbacks,” she said. “The good thing is they know how to treat it so much better now.”

Once she’s back on her feet, Julia is a huge advocate for her friends at Children’s. Since age 7, according to her parents, Jody and Travis, she’s wanted to give back. So, she’s worked with the hospital each year to raise money for her fellow patients.

“It was sad for me, when I left, that other kids were there and could not leave,” she told Mr. Michalak’s class. “So, I decided I would try to do something for them.”

At age 7, she raised nearly $500 in just 10 days to buy holiday gifts.

That led to a meeting with the Children’s Minnesota philanthropy board, who eventually adopted Julia as one of their newest members.

This year, she’s raising more than $20,000 for the hospital. She hosts “Julia’s Big Adventures” 5K run in Otsego each summer (2018 will be the 3rd year) and this year’s big recipient is the new broadcast center inside the hospital – kids, doctors and nurses produce “Children’s TV,” special programming that plays on channels and screens around the hospital informing kids about the phenomenal stories at the hospitals and clinics in the Children’s organizations.

Next year, however, she’s donating her funds to this brand new “rolling ICU” ambulance, which she just got to see for the first time earlier this fall.

“We’re just really honored that she shared this new ambulance with us, and that our kids were able to have a close-up look at this state-of-the-art unit,” said Mr. Machalak. “You hope none of them have to use it, but knowing that something like this is there for our kids if something happens, health-related, it’s amazing. This is really going to save lives.”  

“We’re really honored to be part of the Children’s family,” said Jody, Julia’s mom. “I remember when we left there six years ago, we all felt like we’d been a part of something truly eye-opening.”

For all the information about Julia’s relationship with Children’s Minnesota and her incredible fundraising efforts for the Children’s family, check out www.Children’sMN/JuliasWalk.


Exploring the ambulance  Mr. Machalak's health class with Julia (left, front) Ambulance Julia P