Our Story

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Bridging Hearts was founded by Twin Cities mother, Denise Martin, in 2006 to create a social life for her daughter Natalie who has learning differences. At 24 years old, Natalie had finished her transition program, was living at home, working part-time and spending her weekends with her parents rather than friends. She enjoyed using the computer but there was concern about the safety of online groups and connections. With Natalie’s help, Bridging Hearts was created.

Bridging Hearts is a private online social network. Monthly events in both the Twin Cities and Duluth are offered so our members can meet and socialize in person. Using the website, members are also able to plan their own individual get-togethers. With this friend base of adults in similar situations, the members have a social support network, non-judgmental relationships and fun activities to enjoy. Zoom events are also available. In these times of increasing emphasis on mental health, our members and their families are taking a proactive approach to creating meaningful social connections. Bridging Hearts serves an important role in making sure that members are no longer isolated or disconnected—and are able to find rewarding relationships outside of the family home. This builds resilience and improves mental health.

Bridging Hearts has been transformative for many members. One of the key elements to leading a happy and healthy life is forging meaningful social connections. Bridging Hearts has created a peer community to make it easier to meet new friends in a safe and supportive environment. This results in happier members, parents, relatives and friends!

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Twin Cities Chapter

Carol Perrault
 As Director of Bridging Hearts, I would like to welcome you to our website. We have a lot to offer, so dig in and let’s help you decide if Bridging Hearts is the right fit for you.

In 2016, our son Matt had been out of school for several years and found success through a variety of employment opportunities. We were working hard to set him up with a meaningful job with a future. However, something was missing for Matt. His friendships seemed fleeting and were not substantive. When a friend suggested we explore Bridging Hearts, we were all-in almost immediately.

As I volunteered more and more, I soon discovered that helping others form friendships was rather easy. Bridging Hearts is a support system, but it’s our members who put in the work needed to make and keep friends. They are the foundation of what we do.

I see a bright future for Bridging Hearts. It seems like our circle of friends is expanding every day. We believe everyone deserves to have meaningful friendships. We’ll continue to help our members feel a sense of belonging and hope for a future which includes friends and social experiences.

Duluth Chapter

Teresa Johnson
 In 2016, our daughter Mariah graduated from high school and looked forward to a decent job, a future full of creative aspirations and time spent hanging out with friends. However, her friendship circle remained small. Though she had a lot to offer, very few local opportunities were available to meet other young adults in her peer group. She deserved a chance.

After two years of fruitless searching, we decided to start an organization where people in Mariah’s peer group could meet on a regular basis to share fun activities and form safe online social connections.

On August 3, 2019, the Duluth News Tribune was willing to share our vision. We hoped this would attract other individuals in similar situations. It was at this time that Denise Martin, the founder of Bridging Hearts, was guided to our story. She was just like us 15 years earlier! We soon discovered that our visions were so similar and decided to continue meeting.

Over time, we were officially asked to become the first chapter of Bridging Hearts. It was a heart bridging moment and we gladly accepted. We’re excited to see what the future holds for many young adults in Duluth, MN who have a lot to offer a friend. They just need a chance.


Our mission is to bring a broad range of neurodiverse adults out of social isolation–persons who may have autism, brain injuries, learning or other differences. We provide social connections through membership, a private website and social events.
Our Board

Bridging Hearts is a nonprofit organization with a board composed of community members. Our board members are all volunteers and represent parents of members, as well as community members who have dedicated and volunteered time to ensure our mission is honored.

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