The Peterson Family
Jeff and Karen Peterson met as undergrads at UC Berkeley and immediately knew their relationship was a special one; they got married in 1983 and started a family shortly thereafter. In 1997, when their twin boys were three years old, they noticed their son Eric was constantly thirsty and seemed to tire more easily than his brother, Kort. They brought it up during a routine visit to the pediatrician and, within a few months, learned Eric had pediatric diabetes. Six months later they discovered Eric also had leukemia.
Then in March 2001, Karen was diagnosed with lung cancer. They couldn’t believe this was happening to their family, especially following Eric’s illnesses. Although Eric is now an adult and cancer-free, Karen passed away in 2002. Since then, Jeff has devoted his life to being a good father to Kort and Eric as well as honoring Karen by starting the Peterson Family Foundation in 2003.
Both Kort and Eric have been an integral part of the Peterson Family Foundation since it began. Kort was also diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in his early teens, though neither Kort nor Eric has let diabetes hinder their ambition and love for life. Kort was recently drafted out of UCLA by the Kansas City Royals and Eric is finishing up his education at UC Berkeley.
In 2008 Jeff got remarried to Julee Kleffman. Julee is very supportive of the Peterson Family Foundation, helping to expand its work, honoring Karen’s memory. In 2012 they were blessed with their daughter, Bryn. Jeff and Julee have created a wonderful, new blended family. Together with Kort, Eric and Bryn, they continue to honor Karen's spirit of kindness and compassion through the foundation.
The Foundation’s Focus
Grateful for Eric’s recovery, Jeff and his sons established a holiday tradition of visiting the children’s hospital in San Francisco where Eric had been treated for Luekemia. Each year they donated Starbuck’s cards to the nursing staff and provided iTunes cards, iPads and headphones to the hospitalized children and teens. Seeing how much music gave kids an outlet that lifted them emotionally and spiritually, Jeff and his sons became inspired to do more. This inspiration and passion for music therapy, led to the development of the Peterson Family Foundation Music Therapy Program at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.
Since 2003 the foundation has supported medical research into pediatric cancer, diabetes, and mesothelioma. Now with a focus on supporting Pediatric Leukemia Research, the foundation is involved in all aspects of clinical care. The research that leads to new, effective treatments, as well as the therapies that support the whole child through their medical journey.