When the mighty storm stilled on July 1, Ev Nyberg had 28 difficult calls to make. Not far from the devastating damage to St. Croix State Park, the 100-mile-per-hour winds ripped mercilessly into an oasis for grieving families called Faith's Lodge.

Since 2007, Faith's Lodge, near Danbury, Wis., has welcomed more than 750 families facing the serious illness or death of a child. The main building, housing a resource library and gathering spaces, suffered only minor damage. But the surrounding 80 acres, providing families with plentiful paths and quiet spaces to reflect, grieve and heal, were wiped out.

"It was really hard on them," said Nyberg, of Webster, Wis., recalling how she told family after family that the lodge was closed until at least Aug. 1. Some families were arriving within days from Virginia and Ohio. The lodge was booked for the entire summer.

"You work with them on timing, when their children are out of the hospital," she said. "They say, 'Yep, we're going to get the treatment done, then we'll come up on this day.' It's not as easy to reschedule seriously ill children."

Parents of deceased children asked their own pressing question: "Are the stones all right?"

As part of their healing, families are invited to paint the names of children who have died onto heart-shaped stones collected from Lake Superior. "Parents go to the Bridge of Hope and place them there," Nyberg said. "It's a sacred area."

Nyberg believes that all the stones are safe, and she plans to collect and bring them to the lodge as soon as possible. One father was too anxious to wait, she said. Despite warnings to stay away, he arrived at the lodge and crawled through a perilous field of felled trees to retrieve his stone.

Faith's Lodge was founded by Susan and Mark Lacek of Minneapolis. Susan's 2000 pregnancy with a daughter, Faith Ann, was uneventful until she stopped feeling movement two weeks before her due date. Desperate for a getaway to process their loss, the Laceks kept bumping up against families and couples on happy escapes. They created the nonprofit Faith's Lodge to give families a place to connect with others who understand their sorrow. They have two other daughters, Ally, 8, and Emmy, 10.

Lacek is grateful that the building was left largely unscathed, "but it was our property that really provided the peace and serenity," she said. "It was our trails they could walk down, our bonfires where they could gaze up at the stars, our garden, where they could reflect upon their child. All gone."

An insurance company arrives Monday to assess the damage, Lacek said, and six loggers soon begin what she calls the "major, dangerous work" of clearing thousands of century-old pines, which they predict will take two months. The loggers have promised to clear the area around the main building in time for a fundraiser and open house on July 24, Lacek said.

Meanwhile, Nyberg is working with families to reschedule their visits. Greg and Karla Sheehan of Maple Grove were planning to arrive at Faith's Lodge on July 5 with their 6-year-old daughter. The Sheehans' infant son, Brendan, died in 2010. They attended a bereaved parents group last summer.

The call from Nyberg "was really devastating," said Greg, noting that he and Karla had requested time off from work six months ago. They used the time to visit friends in Duluth and, on a whim Friday, drove to Faith's Lodge to see the damage.

Being at Faith's Lodge last year, Greg said, "showed us how helpful it was to be with other people who were going through the same thing we were dealing with, day by day, hour by hour." They are expecting a baby in October.

"We're going to clean up the mess," Lacek promises, "but we have to be patient."

Gail Rosenblum • 612-673-7350 gail.rosenblum@startribune.com