The holiday season often brings a spirit of giving, and for shoppers at Eden Prairie Center, that spirit is amplified by a unique opportunity to both give and receive.
From Thursday to Sunday, Nov. 2-5 and Nov. 9-12, during regular mall hours, the Holiday & Home Decor Sample Sale will occupy a temporary spot on the mall’s upper level. It’s located adjacent to the AMC movie theaters, Sandbox VR, the food court and Scheels. The store offers an abundance of Christmas and everyday decor items.
But the sale is more than just about decor.
Much of the proceeds from this event will be donated to The Grief Club of Minnesota in honor of 16-year-old Aaron Husmann, who died by suicide during his junior year at Eden Prairie High School last April. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Minnesota chapter will also benefit from the sale.
Aaron’s mother, Thuy Husmann, has channeled her grief into a proactive movement of awareness and support. She has shared that The Grief Club has been instrumental in helping her family and her cope in the past several months. She and her husband, Jamey, live in Shakopee. Aaron had five siblings.
With her friend Molly Stoffel and others, Thuy organized fundraisers for the Chanhassen-based nonprofit. She was instrumental in planning these sample sales, including one at Stoffel’s Eden Prairie home, to raise suicide awareness and aid families facing similar tragedies.
The annual Powderpuff games, organized by Eden Prairie High School’s DECA, were held last month. Thuy ensured that funds raised went to The Grief Club, emphasizing the need for mental health resources in educational institutions.
“There’s so much pain as a result of Aaron’s death, and this gives people, especially the Husmann family, an opportunity to put some purpose into their pain,” said Sarah Kroenke, the executive director, grief counselor, and co-founder of The Grief Club. “So much energy goes into pain and tragedy. And this is moving forward to be able to help others in Aaron’s honor, his legacy.”
Where the idea for the sales began
In the aftermath of Aaron’s death, friends and acquaintances from Eden Prairie, many with teenagers who knew Aaron or the Husmanns’ other children, began hosting third Saturday brunches to support Thuy.
During one of these gatherings, Stoffel suggested hosting a sample sale fundraiser. The company, One Hundred 80 degrees, which was impacted by the pandemic, had accumulated three years’ worth of unsold sample items. Stoffel had previously done some accounting work for the Minneapolis-based wholesale manufacturer and distributor of giftware.
“We suggested probably 10 different ideas, and this is the only one that, like, she lit up,” Stoffel said.
Stoffel couldn’t help but notice how things seemed to fall perfectly into place when planning the sales. Volunteers, many of whom knew the Husmann family, played an instrumental role. From gathering donated items and finding storage to securing mall space and handling the final setup, the process was seamless.
“This is Aaron,” Stoffel said. “Every call I made, people called me back and said yes. It’s just been too easy. But I feel like it’s not just coincidence to me; that’s just my thought.”
Stoffel credits Thuy for the expansive reach and vision of the sales. It’s not just about raising funds for The Grief Club but also about emphasizing the importance of mental well-being and providing resources for those in grief.
“Thuy said it was originally about raising money for The Grief Club,” Stoffel noted. “But then she made it so much bigger. She took it to a whole new level. That was Thuy.”
For example, a tribute banner is displayed at the front of the store with the names of five young men, including Aaron, with local ties who have died by suicide. There’s space for shoppers to add more names.
“If you lost someone, please come to the store,” Stoffel urged. “She (Thuy) wanted it to be a supportive environment.”
What The Grief Club does
Kroenke and Cara Means-Thompson, clinical operations manager and co-founder of The Grief Club, were at the store last week to shine a light on how the sample sales would benefit their organization.
“First and foremost,” Kroenke said, one of the hopes of Aaron’s family was to bring awareness to mental health well-being through the sales.
“The secondary piece of that is the funds received from this going to The Grief Club of Minnesota,” Kroenke added. “It allows us to continue providing high-quality, high-compassion services for families throughout Minnesota who are grieving a significant death in their life.”
She noted that the club’s services are provided at no cost to reduce barriers for individuals seeking services from licensed mental health counselors.
“We just feel so grateful for Molly and the Husmann family and all the other people who have really stepped up and come together to make a difference to support the family and in turn to support so many other families,” Kroenke said.
Means-Thompson highlighted the spirit of community and volunteering, noting that the entire endeavor had been a meaningful way to support The Grief Club.
Additionally, she shared a personal connection to the Husmann family, having known them through community sports where her husband coached Aaron. This bond was instrumental in leading the family to The Grief Club.
“The idea that comes to mind is ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way,'” Means-Thompson said. “It has been countless hours of volunteer time that has felt like, through the process, it also has been beneficial to the Husmann family. They come together to spend time in community while doing something very, very meaningful for The Grief Club of Minnesota.”
Speaking on The Grief Club’s origins, Kroenke revealed that the vision for a grief center had been brewing for over two decades by both her and Means-Thompson, but the nonprofit only officially formed in August 2020.
“We had a strategic plan and pretty strong vision of what we wanted,” Kroenke said. “And for many reasons, our program has grown so much more than we could have ever anticipated in these first three years because the sad reality is that the number of grieving families is rising. But also because we have many wonderful donors who believe in our mission, which allows us to provide our services in a very peaceful and human place in Chanhassen.”
At the front of the store, a framed photo of a smiling Aaron serves as a testament of sorts to The Grief Club’s mission. This same heartfelt image also graces the event flyer promoting the sales. Beneath his image, the poignant words “Gone too soon, but never forgotten” serve as a reminder that he would have been a senior this year.
“That’s the piece that is of the utmost importance – for Aaron and others to never be forgotten,” Stoffel emphasized.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a crisis, please call or text 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, or text MN to 741741. Talk to trained counselors who care, 24/7/365.
If you or a loved one is at imminent risk, please contact 9-1-1 and ask for a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officer.
We offer several ways for our readers to provide feedback. Your comments are welcome on our social media posts (Facebook, X, Instagram, Threads, and LinkedIn). We also encourage Letters to the Editor; submission guidelines can be found on our Contact Us page. If you believe this story has an error or you would like to get in touch with the author, please connect with us.