Posts by TRMF

Historic Partnership: Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation Donates 3.5 Acres to Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library

Historic Partnership: Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation Donates 3.5 Acres to Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library

The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF) has gifted 3.5 acres to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation (TRPLF). The donated land will be used for shared parking, walking and hiking pathways, and a redesigned passage to both the Burning Hills Amphitheatre and the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library.

“The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation and Presidential Library are crucial partners,” said Linda Pancratz, board chair of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation and also a member of the board of directors of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. “This gift makes clear that our success is shared — for Medora, Billings County, North Dakota, and our nation.”

“The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation believes in the T.R. Presidential Library,” said Tim O’Keefe, chair of TRMF. “The gift of this land is just the start of a mutually beneficial relationship as interdependent neighbors and partners.”

The two organizations also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), a critical step toward the beginning of construction in 2023. The agreement creates an access easement for the T.R. Library’s use of Chateau Road. Both organizations will next contemplate an Operating Agreement, Temporary Construction Access, water and other utility easements. The MOU and land donation was unanimously approved by the TRMF Board.

“The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation was founded in 1986 by Harold Schafer,” said Randy Hatzenbuhler, president and chief executive officer of TRMF. “It’s incredible to know that 36 years later Medora will be home to a presidential library.”

TRMF and the T.R. Library are two of the participants in the Medora Area Plan or MAP. The purpose of the group is to assist development and growth in and around Medora. The stakeholders include the City of Medora and its Chamber of Commerce, Billings County, the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, North Dakota Department of Transportation, North Dakota Parks & Recreation, and the State Historical Society. They held their first of three community workshops in May and two additional sessions are planned for October 2, 2022, and January 22, 2023.

TRPLF recently announced the purchase of 90.3 acres of land from the U.S. Forest Service. The transaction completes an 18-month process that began when TRPLF received Congressional approval to acquire the land for construction of the T.R. Library in western North Dakota. Construction is set to begin in 2023 and a grand opening is planned for July 4, 2026 — the 250th anniversary of America and the Declaration of Independence.

Those interested in being “In the Arena” can donate now at trlibrary.com/donate or support TRMF at Foundation.Medora.com.

Ed Schafer Retires from TRMF Board of Directors, Shares Optimism for Medora’s Future

After twelve years of active leadership and a lifetime of interest in and dedication to Medora, Ed Schafer has retired from his position as Chair of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF) Board of Directors.

Schafer delivered his farewell address to friends and supporters of TRMF on Saturday, June 11 at the annual Rough Riders Roundup luncheon in Medora.

He reflected on his long family history in Medora. His father, Harold Schafer, began investing in the revitalization of the town in the 1960s. “I traveled beside my dad to and from Medora long before the seeds of the new Medora were planted.” In 1986, he oversaw the transition of the Medora Division of the Gold Seal Company into the public non-profit Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

In his twelve years as Chair of the Board of Directors, TRMF grew and thrived in substantial ways. Historical landmarks, like the Von Hoffman House and the Ferris General Store, were restored. A campus-style employee work and social space, the Life Skills Center, was constructed. TRMF expanded its lodging offerings by adding the Elkhorn Quarters. And recent additions, such as Point to Point Park and the high-capacity accessible elevator at the Burning Hills Amphitheatre, were approved during Schafer’s tenure.

In his farewell remarks, Schafer said his passion for Medora stems from its ability to “inspire people to self-generate the attributes of freedom.”

Schafer told those in attendance: “I hope you can look around this place and think about endurance. The Badlands have survived glaciers, storms, erosion, petrification, and fires—and they’re beautiful. Let that be a lesson to us in life’s storms and difficulties. We can persevere.”

In a farewell letter to supporters of the foundation, Schafer expressed optimism for the future of TRMF. “Our organization’s success has been because of people like you. I am confident the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation has a bright future.”

Tim O’Keefe, TRMF’s new Chair of the Board, expressed gratitude for his predecessor’s long history in Medora. “As history and legend have it, some 60 years ago, Harold Schafer and his young son Ed stood on the top of the bluff overlooking Medora, when Harold said ‘This place is too special not to be preserved.'”

“Over the last sixty years, no one has been more a part of seeing Harold Schafer’s vision for Medora become a reality than Ed,” O’Keefe said.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum also praised Schafer’s dedication to the service of others. “Theodore Roosevelt said ‘The great prize in life is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing.’ Ed and Nancy Schafer grabbed that prize. The difference they’ve made in people’s lives, not just here in Medora, but throughout their entire careers, is really incredible.”

“Work hard, then play hard!” Honoring Mike & Peggy Bullinger with the 2022 Bully Spirit Award

The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF) is proud to announce the recipients of the 2022 Bully Spirit Award: Mike & Peggy Bullinger of Fargo, North Dakota.

Mike & Peggy Bullingerreceived the award on June 11, 2022 as part of Rough Riders Roundup, a yearly gathering of friends and supporters of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

Mike & Peggy embody and live by this phrase: “Work hard, then play hard.” The pair purchased Western Products, a small home improvement company, in 1984—and grew it into the thriving, family-owned business it is today.

Their success in business has allowed them to give back to causes and communities for which they care, including the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. Mike & Peggy own a home in Medora, and have contributed philanthropically to several TRMF projects, including Bully Pulpit Golf Course, the Life Skills Center, the Little Bully Pulpit Mini Golf Course, and the Old Town Hall Theater.

“Medora is better because of Mike and Peggy,” said TRMF President Randy Hatzenbuhler while presenting the Bullingers with the award. “They have been benefactors to almost everything TRMF has done. There’s hardly a project in this town they haven’t been a part of.”

In accepting the award, Mike Bullinger told stories about the fond memories his family has made in Medora over the years.

“We love Medora,” he said. “And our grandkids love Medora! We were out here on a weekend about a year ago, and at the end of the weekend I asked my grandkids: ‘Would you rather be at the lake, or be in Medora?’ And they all said Medora.”

The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation established the Bully Spirit Award in 2018 as a way to honor individuals or couples who have committed extraordinary effort toward furthering the mission and vision of TRMF: to connect people to historic Medora for positive, life-changing experiences.

Watch the full presentation of the Bully Spirit Award!

Ribbons Cut at Two New Medora Destinations: Point to Point Park & Schafer Point

Ribbons Cut at Two New Medora Destinations: Point to Point Park & Schafer Point

(MEDORA, ND) The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF) recently celebrated two major milestones: ribbons were cut at the newly completed Point to Point Park and at historic Schafer Point in Medora.

Point to Point Park is designed to be a hub of family-friendly activities in downtown Medora. It features a mini golf course, a zipline, and a system of hiking trails—and new this year, includes a swimming pool and lazy river, jump pillow, pickleball courts, and more.

The ribbon at Point to Point Park was cut by JoAnn Butler, who along with her late husband Matt made a $2 million lead gift to establish the $8 million project. The couple’s daughter, Twylah Blostky, spoke on behalf of the Matt & JoAnn Butler Family Foundation.

“When families gather, the stories always come out, and they usually start out with, ‘Do you remember that time when…'” Blotsky said. “All of us are here to give you the gift of memories—for you, your children, and your grandchildren—so that going forward, your new stories can begin with: ‘Do you remember that time when we were in Medora and…'”

The Butler family was joined by several other major philanthropic contributors to the project to help christen the park on Saturday, June 11, 2022. See the list of projects and their primary donors below:

  • Lead Gift: The Matt & JoAnn Butler Family
  • Family Pool: Great River Energy
  • Pool House: Marlene Hoffart & Family
  • Lazy River: Dick & Darlyne Anderson, George Pasternak
  • Little Bully Pulpit Mini Golf Course: Mike & Peggy Bullinger Family
  • Boat Thieves: Chris & Trina Smaaladen
  • Point to Point Trails: Linda & Lizzy Pancratz
  • Splash Pad: Dickinson Ready Mix
  • Shade Pavilion: Van & Dee Larson
  • Schafer Point: Jim & Joanne Kack
  • Mini Zipline: Tom & Frances Leach Foundation
  • Pickleball: Brad & Deb Wimmer
  • Zipline: James & Cynthia Jorgensen, Todd & Shirley Porter Family, Arthur & Edith Pearson Foundation, Mike & Shelley Rowe
  • Jump Pillow: 1st International Bank & Trust, Steve & Gretchen Stenehjem
Watch the video above to experience the Point to Point Park ribbon cutting ceremony!

Schafer Point is a historically significant destination along Point to Point Trails, which lead hikers to the top of the butte that overlooks Medora to the north. It is here that Ed Schafer recalls standing as a young boy with his father Harold, who would go on to revitalize the town below.

The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation constructed a log pavilion at this location, thanks to the generosity of Jim & Joanne Kack. The ribbon was cut by Ed and Nancy Schafer on Saturday, June 11, 2022.

“What’s really cool is that there are members of the public here along with the Schafer family,” said Randy Hatzenbuhler, the President of TRMF. “That’s the whole point of this place: we want people to enjoy a hike in the Badlands. I’m grateful that we get to enjoy places like this together.”

Watch the video above to experience the Schafer Point ribbon cutting ceremony!

Volunteers Refresh the Medora Children’s Park

Volunteers Refresh the Medora Children’s Park

For Charles Cullen, spending an afternoon in Medora raking rubber mulch meant coming full circle.

“My wife and I were here 21 years ago helping build this,” the 87-year-old said of the Medora Children’s Park. “It’s been well used over the years. I’m just thankful that my physical condition is such that I can still do this.”

Cullen was one of about 75 volunteers who spent Saturday, May 14th, 2022 breathing new life into the Medora Children’s Park – which was built by volunteers over the course of five days in 2001.

Related: The Dickinson Press: Volunteers Gather in Medora to Renovate Children’s Park

Bob Holzer was there in 2001, too. This time, he said, “I feel older! But it’s a happy feeling.”

The wooden playground received a fresh coat of stain and about 70 tons of recycled rubber mulch – a softer, safer material underfoot for kids using the park. The volunteer crew, which included the President of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, Randy Hatzenbuhler, applied plenty of elbow grease to get the work done in a day.

“We were joking about the amount of ibuprofen we’d need after that!” Hatzenbuhler said. “But not one person seemed to complain about any of it. In fact, the coordinator of the project, Peggy Gunther, said they’re all asking, ‘What’s the next project?’ Every organization should be able to experience that – when people care that much.”

“You don’t get to experience this kind of goodwill every day,” Gunther said. She serves the TR Medora Foundation as Director of Volunteer Activities.

Related: KX News: Volunteers spruce up decades-old park in Medora

Bravera Bank brought a team of about a dozen employees out for the volunteer event. The bank made a generous contribution to TRMF to make the renovation project possible. “We’re bankers, right? So we don’t usually work with our hands much!” said David Ehlis, the President and CEO of Bravera, who also cut the ribbon on the park at a grand reopening ceremony. “It’s great to be able to help the community.”

Gunther says events like this — and the hundreds of people who volunteer their time and energy to help the TR Medora Foundation operate during busy summers — inspire her. “This is what humankind is really all about. You work side by side, you have fun, you treat each other with kindness and goodness, and you make it happen.”

The Medora Children’s Park is located in downtown Medora, and is free and open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset.

Paving a Path Forward at Bully Pulpit: Cart Path Concrete Provider Wins National Award

Dickinson Ready Mix, a company with decades of history supporting the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, was in the national spotlight this spring thanks in part to a project at Bully Pulpit Golf Course.

In March of 2022, Scott Olin, the President and General Manager of Dickinson Ready Mix, was named the Concrete Pavement Promoter of the Year by the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA).

Left to right: NRMCA Chairman Abbott Lawrence, Scott Olin, and National Pavement Promotion Committee Chair Hank Hauge

“Any time you’re recognized nationally, it’s just a huge honor,” Olin said of the award.

Scott Olin is entering his 42nd year as a member of the Dickinson Ready Mix team. His father Jack also spent 41 years with the company, and his son Ben is an employee of eight years.

Olin said the award was given largely due to the innovative work his company is is doing with Bully Pulpit Golf Course: three miles of cart paths have been upgraded to concrete from Dickinson Ready Mix.

“We are especially proud of our work at Bully Pulpit,” Olin said. “It’s such a gem of southwest North Dakota.”

Providing concrete for the cart paths marks another chapter in Dickinson Ready Mix’s history of supporting the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. The company also provided concrete for the rebuilding of the Burning Hills Amphitheatre in the 1990s. “We were backing trucks up the butte to pour the foundations for the amphitheatre seating,” he recalled. “That was one of the neatest projects that we ever had the opportunity to be a part of.”

Golfers at Bully Pulpit in 2022 will be sure to notice a smoother ride. The concrete cart path project is more than halfway complete. “It should make for a more pleasant ride between holes,” said Patrick Rominger, the Bully Pulpit Clubhouse Manager and PGA Head Golf Professional. “And it helps us prolong the lifespan of our carts.” Cart path upgrades are slated to continue next offseason.

Scott Olin said the new concrete paths are a wise investment for Bully Pulpit. “It’s long lasting,” he said. “There’s concrete pavement in the country that’s 100 years old and still being used.”

He also said the upgrade from asphalt to concrete is in line with the mission of Legacy Bully Pulpit: to preserve the natural beauty of the Badlands. “Bully Pulpit is in a fragile environmental setting, built right into the Badlands. A sustainable cart path will fit right in.”

The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation congratulates Scott Olin on his well-deserved national recognition, and thanks him and Dickinson Ready Mix for their continued support.

PS: The Bully Pulpit Golf Course team is targeting a mid-May opening date in 2022, weather permitting. Stay tuned for details!

Reflecting on the April 1st, 2021 wildfire — and the heroic people who saved Medora

Reflecting on the April 1st, 2021 wildfire — and the heroic people who saved Medora

As the calendar turns from March to April, we can’t help but remember what was happening exactly one year ago today, on April 1st, 2021.

A spark from a sagging power line southwest of Medora grew into a wildfire that tore across the rain-deprived Badlands. “It outran us at just about every corner,” remembers Doug Koester, the Maintenance Manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.

The fire rapidly approached the city of Medora, as well as nearby locations with priceless history, like the Chateau de Mores and the Burning Hills Amphitheatre, home of the Medora Musical. It forced Medora’s residents to evacuate — to watch the cloud of smoke move and grow and fear the worst for their homes and livelihoods.

One year later, we remember those fearful feelings: but much more, we feel immense gratitude for the nearly 150 brave first responders who leapt into service to save Medora.

“It took everybody working together to fully execute the plan,” recalls Billings County Fire Chief Kyle Shockley.

“We were bound and determined to hold the line,” says Koester, who is also Medora’s Fire Chief.

The line held; once the blaze was extinguished, the fire lines viewed from the sky proved it.

“We do it because we love our community,” says Clint Rood, a member of the TRMF Maintenance Team who helped save the Burning Hills Amphitheatre. “I’m just here to lend a helping hand. I’m no better than the next guy down the line.”

“All the communities came together,” Koester says. Indeed, dozens of first responding agencies from not only western North Dakota, but statewide—and even as far as Colorado—heeded the call and helped save the city we love.

No amount of gratitude is too much for the people who make up those agencies and organizations. So one year after their heroic acts, all of us at the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation say “Thank you” once again to the following groups (and everyone who stepped up to help on that fateful day):

  • Medora Fire Department
  • Billings County Rural Fire Department
  • Billings County Highway Department
  • Billings County Sheriff’s Office
  • Billings County Ambulance
  • Medora Police Department
  • Medora Public Works
  • Belfield Fire Department
  • South Heart Fire Department
  • Sentinel Butte Fire Department
  • Beach Fire Department
  • Golva Fire Department
  • Wibaux Fire Department
  • Golden Valley County Sheriff’s Department
  • North Dakota Highway Patrol
  • North Dakota National Guard
  • National Park Service
  • United States Forest Service
  • North Dakota Forest Service
  • Colorado Emergency Management Office
  • Civil Air Patrol – North Dakota Wing
  • State Radio Communications
  • Stark County Dispatch

We invite you to watch this video, in which we interviewed many of the key people who worked diligently to save Medora from the April 1st wildfire:

“The Medora Connection” & help for Ukraine in the news

It’s not about the job, it’s about the people.”

Yarema Slonevskyy

In the last week, the story of how friendships made in Medora have led to substantial help for people caught in the war between Ukraine and Russia has spread across North Dakota.

On March 25th, KFYR-TV aired a feature story on Yarema Slonevskyy and Jason Masten, two Medora employees who have connected in an incredible way:

Yarema Slonevskyy’s Medora nametag holds hundreds of memories.

“People see it says I’m from Ukraine and they ask, ‘How did you end up in Medora?’” he explained.

Every summer since 2008, he’s been leaving his home in Ukraine and coming to Medora. He is one of more than 300 seasonal employees the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation hires each summer.

Slonevskyy quickly learned that there is something special about Medora.

It’s not about the job, it’s about the people,” he said from his home in Ukraine.

Now those people, are helping Slonevskyy as his country faces war.

“I worked with Yarema that first year,” said Jason Masten, a Florida native who spent two summers as a TRMF seasonal employee. He met his girlfriend there. He also made other lifelong friends and developed his giving nature.

“Everybody deserves help,” Masten said.

Masten is now living in Poland, where he’s collecting supplies for Slonevskyy to distribute.

“I told him what we needed, and he said, ‘I’m willing to help you out as much as possible,’” recalled Slonevskyy.

You can watch and read the full story by Jody Kerzman for KFYR-TV here.

KX News also shared Yarema’s story, detailing what sort of goods have been collected by his Medora friends:

“We loaded them with strollers, baby shoes, kids’ clothes, diapers, cans of food, formula food for different ages; huge amounts, we barely could fit it,” Slonevskyy said.

Read and watch Cameron Brewer’s story for KX News here.

How friendships made in Medora turned into crucial support for families in Ukraine

In 2007, a young man named Yarema Slonevskyy made the long trip from Ukraine to Medora, North Dakota for the first time.

Nearly every summer since, Yarema has called the North Dakota Badlands home, serving as assistant to Lyubomir Shkandriy, then the TR Medora Foundation’s Food and Beverage Manager.

“We’ve known each other since we were eight years old,” Lyubomir says. The two grew up in Ukraine. “We used to call ourselves brothers from different mothers.”

In late February of 2022, life changed dramatically for Yarema. “Bombs, tanks, missiles, tears, refugees, shock… war,” he wrote on a Facebook post on March 8th.

“Not one night has passed for Yarema without air raid sirens sounding,” says Lyubomir, who now calls Medora home year-round.

But as soon as the sirens began sounding in Yarema’s home country, something else happened: he began hearing from countless friends he made in Medora.

“Right away I started receiving messages from all over the world with warm words of support and prayers for me and my country,” Yarema said, “from people I had the privilege to meet in Medora.”

A number of those friends hail from Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine. And that group of friends quickly took action to help families caught in the conflict.

“[On March 8th] I got a full van of humanitarian goods from my Medora family,” Yarema said. The van was stuffed with batteries, warm clothes, items for children, and even a power generator that made its way to a hospital on Ukraine’s frontline. Yarema met the van at the border of Ukraine and Poland, then drove it to a central hub to be distributed to families in need across Ukraine.

And that was just the first van.

“Same spot, same reason,” Yarema wrote on Facebook on March 19th, as he picked up another vanload of essential supplies—all gathered by friends he made in Medora now living in Poland. “The support and effort are priceless.”

Among those who gathered goods and transported them to Ukraine is Jason Masten, who has also worked in Medora’s food service sector. “I would just like to thank everyone who either donated money, or contributed supplies to the transport,” he wrote on Facebook. “It means the world to those in need.”

“Always remember that it is not our abilities that show who we are. It is our choices,” Jason wrote.

Those words remind us at the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation of these words from our presidential namesake: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing is the wrong thing. And the worst thing you can do is nothing,” TR said.

Yarema shared these words of thanks with his “Medora family” on Facebook: “You spend one summer in Medora and you have the whole world watching your back during dark times in the rest of your life.”

Progress Update: Accessible Elevator Taking Shape at Burning Hills Amphitheatre!

Folks in Medora have been enjoying quite the sight this week: an enormous crane swinging pieces of our brand-new high-capacity elevator into place at the Burning Hills Amphitheatre!

These photos show the progress being made on a foggy March 2nd, 2022. It’s thrilling to get a better sense of how this amazing new structure will fit into the landscape at the home of the Medora Musical.

This high-capacity elevator is a major piece of our Access Medora initiative: an ongoing effort to ensure the Medora experience is positive for guests with mobility and sensory challenges.

“It’s been fun to see this elevator take shape,” says Kinley Slauter, the Properties & Attractions Director for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. “It will be much more fun to see it in use this summer!”

Instead of being shuttled up and down our winding walking path — a process that could take up to an hour on busy nights — guests in need of extra assistance will have a fast, safe, efficient new option.

“The whole visit to the Burning Hills Amphitheatre is an experience,” says Maddie Thompson, Theaters Manager for TRMF, “from the moment you reach the top of the hill to your trip back into town. This elevator will make that experience better all around. We’re excited!”

Fans of the Medora Musical, like Valerie Addicott and her daughter, are excited too. “I have a little girl in a wheelchair, and she loves the Medora Musical, but we’ve only seen it once due to it being difficult to get her to and from the amphitheatre,” she says. “This will be a Godsend to so many people and their friends and family!”

“The addition of the elevator will also give people an amazing new view of the Badlands,” Slauter says, describing the view from the bridge to the elevator. Take a look at this artist’s rendering of that view:

We’re grateful to the Engelstad Foundation for providing us with a $1 million grant to get this project off the ground. We also owe a big “thank you” to the State of North Dakota, which awarded us a $1 million Tourism Transportation Grant during the 2021 Legislative Session in support of Access Medora.

We can’t wait for summer to get here!