BOTTINEAU Skiers of all abilities are celebrating the grand opening of Annie's House, an adapative ski lodge at Bottineau Winter Park, this week.
On Friday, a guided, young skier in a wheelchair ski led a group of skiers in breaking through a red ribbon before swooshing down the hill. The ribbon-breaking event followed Thursday's military appreciation day. Today, a dedication ceremony will be held at 2 p.m.
This is the second session of adaptive skiing at the winter park north of Bottineau, even though the construction of Annie's House only recently was essentially complete.
An adaptive skier heads down the slope after leading other skiers in breaking through a red ribbon to mark the completion of Annie’s House at Bottineau Winter Park Friday. Annie’s House is in the background.
Jeff Parness of New York Says Thank You Foundation speaks at a
ribbon-cutting ceremony for Annie’s House Friday in memory of Ann Nelson, whose mother, Jenette, left, participated in the event.
Mary Stammen, with Friends of Annie's House and director for the Griggs/Steele/Traill Special Education Unit in Portland, said there were 74 children with disabilities who
participated last winter. In addition to winter skiing, the lodge has been a base for children to come to fish, hike and ride horseback in the summer.
"It just keeps getting bigger and bigger," Stammen said of the opportunities with the lodge. "They are talking about doing a community garden up here this summer and holding social skills classes for kids with disabilities and having workshops for people who work with kids with disabilities. The list is so long, we don't know how we are going to get it all in."
Annie's House became a project of the New York Says Thank You Foundation after Gary and Jenette Nelson of Stanley disclosed the bucket list of their daughter, Ann Nelson, found on her computer after her death in the World Trade Center attack in 2001. Owning a home in North Dakota was item seven on the list for Ann, who also had a heart for people who need a helping hand.
New York Says Thank You Foundation, an
organization that rallies New York firefighters and other volunteers to commemorate Sept. 11 each year, brought volunteer labor to Bottineau in 2012 to help the community make Annie's House happen.
Jeff Parness, foundation chairman, spoke during Friday's activities at Annie's House of the vision to turn the Sept. 11 tragedy into something positive.
"We knew if we did it, folks from the community would step up," he said, noting the support not only from the Bottineau region but from various organizations serving disabled children and wounded warriors.
The foundation and the winter park set a $1.5 million fund-raising goal to leverage an estimated $300,000 in volunteer labor and donated materials.
Stammen said they continue to accept donations both for the lodge construction and to aid Friends of Annie's House in operating the adaptive ski program.
"Not only do we need equipment but kids who come up here ski for free," she said. Friends of Annie's House seeks to raise money to
provide for those scholarships.
In addition to financial donations, volunteers are welcome to help with the programs, she said.
Annie's House is a 11,500-square-foot visitor center that replaces an older chalet at Bottineau Winter Park. Ann Nelson had enjoyed skiing at the park, and a theme of conversation at the lodge Friday was how much she would have enjoyed Annie's House.
"This project is all about love about a local girl who had beautiful dreams and worthwhile goals, and people who refused to let them die," Jenette Nelson said.