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Sonshine & Hope, Inc

Group Homes for Huntington's & Other Disabilities

Our Story....

Sonshine & Hope, Inc....

The first 2 group homes in the country for Huntington’s Disease

Christmas 2001, Dianne Priebe had the difficult task of wrapping a ribbon around a 4,000 square foot gift – a small challenge in comparison to the ones her family has already faced. Today, thanks to her faith and vision, she gives hope to other families affected by Huntington’s Disease (HD) by opening her home and her heart. In 1989, Priebe’s husband, Tom, was diagnosed with Huntington's Disease. HD is an incurable, hereditary, degenerative neurologic dysfunction affecting the motor track in the brain, which causes involuntary movements, dementia, behavioral and mood changes, and progressive impairments of coordination and gait. HD most commonly affects adults in the prime of life, between ages 20 and 60, but occasionally leads to symptoms in persons as young as 10 or as old as 70.As Tom’s disease progressed, Dianne and their adult children, Angela and Chris, had to make decisions regarding his increasing needs for around-the-clock care.“We didn’t want to put Dad in a nursing home, because he was in his early 50s and didn’t need that degree of care,” explains Angela Priebe. “And adult day care didn’t provide as much care as he needed. There was nothing in between.”That’s when Dianne, a real estate agent, got the idea of opening a group home for people with HD. She shared her vision over lunch with colleagues, and they told her of a house that sounded exactly like what she was looking for – and it had been on the market for over 90 days.She toured the 4,000 square foot, three-bedroom rambler at 14808 Chicago Ave. in Burnsville, and knew immediately that is was indeed the perfect place for “Sonshine Acres.”" We're very blessed to find this house. We've tried to make the best of a bad situation, and we're taking it one day at a time." - Dianne Priebe“At that point I had been in real estate for 15 years, and I’ve never seen a house like this fit so well with our needs,” says Dianne. “We just kept following the vision God put in front of us.”A month later Dianne and Tom moved in. She and her children spent the next year preparing the home and getting the adult foster care license for Dakota County. They opened January 2003, when Angela Priebe quit her job at Blue Cross/Blue Shield to work full-time as the resident manager. At the same time, they welcomed their second HD resident, Jen, and her poodle, Cosmo. In April, Judy arrived. Licensed to care for up to four patients, Sonshine Acres hopes to add the fourth HD resident soon.While finishing medical school, neighbor Ashley Davies (center) joined the Sonshine Acres staff.The days are busy at Sonshine Acres. Residents enjoy a variety of activities, from going on walks, to preparing dinner, to hydrotherapy in the hot tub. Outings to various HD support groups, church, Twins games, and local malls are also arranged. And of course, there are the trips to HCMC’s Huntington’s Disease Clinic, where Tom, Jen and Judy all receive care. “Our lives wouldn’t be the same without Dr. Martha Nance and Beryl Westphal, and the caring staff at the clinic. Dr. Nance was our second opinion doctor, and she’s truly an amazing woman. She’s just so involved and so caring,” says Dianne. “We encourage every HD family to go to her.”The Huntington’s Disease Clinic at HCMC is marking its 25th year of providing care for patients and families affected by the disease. A team that includes professionals from physical and occupational therapy, neuropsychology, neurology, dietary, speech pathology, nursing, and genetic counseling completes the multidisciplinary staff at the clinic. In 1999, the clinic was named a “Center of Excellence,” giving it national distinction.Until there’s a cure, Angela, Chris & Dianne Priebe are happy and content to be providing this type of service for people with HD. Are they okay with having to shut down some day when a cure is found? “Absolutely,” exclaims Dianne Priebe. Tom Priebe’s daughter, Angela, is co-director of Sonshine Acres. Unlike her brother, Chris, who decided to test for the HD and was found not to carry the gene, Angela decided against being tested. She’s 50% at risk for the disease. “For me, it’s reassuring that if I have the disease, thank goodness there will be this wonderful place for me to be taken care of.”3 years after Sonshine Acres opened, Dakota County asked us to open a second home as there were several Huntington's people needing a home and they liked the model we had presented over the past few years. 2 months later, High Hope Home was opened. It is located 1 mile from Sonshine Acres. All of our staff is crossed trained to work between both homes as needed. We are usually full, with a waiting list. In 2008, we welcomed our first non-Huntington's clients. At the present time (3/11) we are full with 6 Huntington's & 2 non-Huntington's residents. We are blessed to have devoted, loving staff who are 100% committed to the residents and community we serve.