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Helping is Healing for SLP's Donahue

After enduring psychological and physical abuse as a child, Linnea Donahue said she is now motivated by giving back.

Linnea Donahue said she remembers the abuse starting when she was young.

A close relative was the abuser, and Donahue said the abuse was both psychological and physical. In a St. Louis Park home that Donahue described as fit for the show “Hoarders,” the relative once threw her across the living room and into a Christmas tree. Other times, Donahue said, the relative would hold her under water for long periods of time, or force food down her throat to the point where she’d throw up.

Because no criminal charges were ever filed and no arrests made, St. Louis Park Patch is not fully identifying the alleged abuser.

There were other times where Donahue and her three sisters were locked in their rooms, growing “weak and lethargic” as they lay in bed all day, she said. Donahue also remembers sexual abuse from another family member—facilitated by the close relative.

The abuse lessened as Donahue got older, and by her junior year in high school, the relative had moved away. But the scars remained, and from time to time during her adult life, Donahue would have vivid flashbacks.

“It was hell living through it, and re-experiencing it,” she said.

The low point came a little more than a year ago, when Donahue said she was close to suicide. This was also a turning point for Donahue, who said she “woke up.”

Instead of letting herself fall down, Donahue said she decided to help bring others up. The first order of business was re-booting the Parkettes, dance team that had folded years earlier. The team started practicing last May, and was on the field to cheer on the football team in the fall.

Next came T-shirts for charity. Using skills she learned in the retail world (Donahue retired from Target in April 2011), Donahue started making rhinestone shirts with the iconic Jack Jablonski circle logo, selling them at hockey games to raise money for the family’s foundation. Donahue also made shirts to support former Park baseball player Derrick Keller as he battled leukemia (Keller in June).

All of this giving back is part of Donahue’s healing process.

“I always wanted to do some good about what I went through, versus being a victim,” she said. “I’m motivated by helping others.”

By Donahue’s side has been her husband of 24 years, former St. Louis Park hockey coach Tim Donahue. Linnea said when she first started dating Tim, he was the first person she felt comfortable confiding in.

“He’s always been that type of boyfriend and husband,” she said. 

Tim Donahue said he’s proud of how Linnea has dealt with the pain from her past.

“She’s never used it as a crutch. That’s what has impressed me most,” he said. “I think she’s finding that helping others is healing.”

Tim Donahue, who teaches health classes at the high school, said he will sometimes discuss his wife’s abuse with his students at a high level. Linnea Donahue said she hopes to someday speak to his classes—and to other groups—in an effort to spread her story and show people who might be suffering from a form of abuse that there is hope.

“I don’t feel it needs to be a secret,” she said of her past. “I’d love to be the poster child, and take away the stigma. I made the conscious decision that I’m not going to let (the abuse) define me.”

As she helps and heals, Linnea Donahue said she has other goals. She wants to grow her charity shirt operation, perhaps incorporating as a nonprofit. And the Parkettes’ second season back will be getting started soon, with Linnea Donahue once again the volunteer coach.

“The person that she has become through it all is so impressive to me,” Tim Donahue said. “I think her story is very unique and powerful.”

meghan August 02, 2012 at 11:40 AM
How brave of Linnea to step up and tell her story. so many people struggle with abuse and never feel comfortable telling anybody about it, as if they had any control over the situation when they were being abused, hence why the abusers choose the vulnerable; young, old, disabled. I'm glad to hear she's using her past to pave a positive path for her future and others. This was a very inspiring story, thank you Patch for posting it and thank you Linnea for telling it.
Amy August 02, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Linnea is a wonderful woman and mother, and is truly inspirational. I didn't have any idea she went through this as a child, and am very saddened by it as I also know one of her sisters. Thank you for sharing this Linnea. You continue to be a role model. Good luck with the Parkettes and your business. You deserve every success life has to offer.
Amy H August 02, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Linnea you are such wonderful person and I am grateful to know you and have my daughter, Haley on the Parkettes last season. Thank you for all you do!
Linda Trummer August 03, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Linnea, many have suffered in silence and every time one strong voice speaks up, we all get stronger. Your husband taught my son many years ago. You are lucky to have found each other. Hugs to you, and Tim.
Linnea Donahue August 03, 2012 at 05:50 AM
-- Meghan, thanks for the kind words of support. I have a driving need to use what I survived to help others come out the other side of abusive situations as a survivor. I want them join me in being proud of ENDING the cycle of abuse.
Heather newman August 03, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Linnea, I'm so proud of you. I always knew you were special and amazing... I just had no idea how much more their was to the story! Thank you for all you do!
Brynn McConnell August 03, 2012 at 01:49 PM
I'm incredibly proud of you, Linnea, for sharing your story and overcoming your past. You know I love you and support you all the way. Keep up the amazing work you do every day!!!!
Kara B August 03, 2012 at 05:12 PM
An amazing story, Linnea. Keep doing such amazing work & healing in the process!! What a wonderful spirit you have...thankful you are sharing it with those around you now!!
Rachel A August 05, 2012 at 06:15 AM
Wow, I've just gotten to know Linnea after buying one of her rhinestone bling shirts at a hockey tournament a few months ago and I could tell right away that there was something special about her. She has such a fantastic smile and personality that it's hard to believe that she once struggled through such terrible abuse. I'm thankful her abuse has stopped and she hasn't let it define her. I'm so glad she "woke up" and is now sharing her talents with others. She now is the supplier for cute bling clothing for us "hockey moms" to wear for my son's AAA hockey team and donates her profits to the Jack Jablonski Foundation. Truly a wonderful person and I'm so glad our path's crossed!

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