A cookbook project that heals hearts

Hofacker family - heart program philanthropy

Dan Hofacker of Appleton, Wisconsin has just one regret: He didn’t pursue a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) for his heart failure condition earlier. “I waited until the very last minute and when I finally received one, it was like night and day. I improved immensely,” he said. His family members have no regrets though, only gratitude for the care that their husband and father received. “Dan wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the team at UW,” said Gail Hofacker, his wife. 

After Dan returned home to recover from the procedure, his 8th-grade daughter Abby Hofacker wanted to express their thanks for all that his providers had given to her father, as well as finding a way to support others living with heart failure. When a school assignment posed an opportunity to create and sell an item and donate the profits to an organization, she decided to craft a practical resource: a cookbook featuring heart-healthy recipes.

cardiology philanthropy “Abby asked family and friends for recipes that were healthful and had low amounts of sodium, and she compiled them into a book. She used an online service that creates cookbooks, which allowed her to create the layout of the pages, and she selected the photos at the beginning of each chapter,” said Gail.

A total of 113 copies were printed – and every single one was sold, raising $700. The Hofacker family added a contribution to bring the funds to $1,000, then traveled one more time to the now-familiar corridors of University Hospital to present the funds to Maryl Johnson, MD, professor (CHS) and John Blabaum, APNP, nurse practitioner, both of Cardiovascular Medicine. Joining them was Pete Schemling, senior director of development. 

“I really like to cook, so I liked the idea of writing a cookbook,” said Abby. “I wanted to do something to help the people who helped my dad.”

cardiology philanthropy - Dr. Maryl JohnsonThe family chatted with Blabaum, whose background in farming was a common connection with Dan, and Dr. Johnson. “It is the ability of our collaborative, multidisciplinary heart failure team to help people like Mr. Hofacker that makes coming to work every day fun and rewarding. Abby’s heartfelt gift to honor the care her father received is truly appreciated and validates the work we do every day,” said Dr. Johnson. The Hofackers also expressed thanks to Dennis Maki, MD, professor emeritus, Infectious Disease, as an individual who made a significant positive impact on Dan’s condition. “We could tell how well Dr. Maki was respected at UW and were amazed at how down to earth he is,” said Gail.

Their gift will support the UW Heart Failure and Transplant Program Fund and is earmarked for the Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) program, which is led by Ravi Dhingra, MD, MPH, assistant professor (CHS), Cardiovascular Medicine. Clinicians in the UW Health Heart Failure Management Program that Dr. Dhingra directs provide care for UW Health patients who are living with heart failure and evaluate patients for appropriate treatment, including LVAD heart pumps. 

“What a remarkable family and amazing gift that the Hofackers have provided to our heart failure program,” said Schmeling. “Supporting research in this area will have a ripple effect for others faced with the condition.” 


Photo caption (top): The Hofacker family visited University Hospital to present funds raised by sales of a cookbook created by 8th-grade daughter Abby. Left to right: Dan Hofacker; Gail Hofacker, nurse practitioner John Blabaum, Abby Hofacker, Dr. Maryl Johnson, and Pete Schmeling. Photo credit: Clint Thayer/Department of Medicine



  • UW Health Heart Failure Management Program