Posts in category Faces of Medora

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.

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.

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.

“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.”

NEWS RELEASE: Clarence Sitter Named Chief Operating Officer, Emily Klym Becomes Chief Financial Officer of TRMF

(Medora, ND) – The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF) is happy to announce new positions for two longtime leaders of our organization. Former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Clarence Sitter has assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the organization—and previous Controller Emily Klym has taken the mantle of CFO.

Sitter and Klym began their new roles on January 1st, 2022.

“The Medora Foundation is a great place to work,” Sitter says. “The values of our organization—of service to others and respect for people and place—attracted me to Medora and keep me here. I look forward to continuing to share those values in this new capacity.”

Clarence Sitter grew up in Drayton, North Dakota. He earned his bachelor degree and his MBA from the University of Mary in Bismarck, where he was invited to join the Harold Schafer Emerging Leaders Academy. It was there that he became acquainted with members of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. After an eleven-year career as a Certified Public Accountant with Eide Bailly, he joined TRMF as Chief Financial Officer in June of 2012.

“I learned about Harold Schafer’s legacy of reinvigorating Medora during my time at the University of Mary,” Sitter says. “I consider it a blessing and an honor to be able to give back to Medora and the people of North Dakota, like Harold did.”

Sitter’s tenure as CFO brought a great deal of growth and expansion at the TR Medora Foundation: from approximately $10 million in annual operating revenue in 2012 to about $20 million today. The organization’s staff also grew from around 30 full-time employees to more than 70 in 2022.

“I feel like I’m leaving the CFO position in a better place than I found it; that was always my goal,” Sitter says. “I believe Medora will continue to be a safe, family-friendly place for North Dakota to enjoy, and I know we’ll go on to provide more opportunities for our employees to grow and develop.”

Meanwhile, Sitter expressed great confidence in his successor Emily Klym. “Emily is tenacious, detail-oriented, outgoing, passionate, and caring—all great traits for a CFO to have,” Sitter says. “I look forward to seeing what she’ll do to improve the position and our organization.”

“I am very excited and humbled to be in this new role at the TR Medora Foundation,” Klym says. “I’ve gained a lot of perspective on our organization as controller, and have worked closely with our various department managers in that time. I’m glad to have a voice at the table of our excellent Leadership Team.”

Emily Klym grew up in Edgeley, North Dakota. She says her “Medora story” began in her childhood. “We traveled here as a family every summer. I absolutely loved it.”

Klym enrolled at Dickinson State University, where she was admitted to the Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership Program. She graduated in 2012 with degrees in accounting and business, then became a Certified Public Accountant in 2014. After a multi-year career at Brady Martz & Associates in Dickinson, she joined TRMF as Controller in July of 2018.

Klym says she’s grateful to have held a role that allowed her to interact closely with the many branches of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. “I’ve had the chance to learn and understand intimately the opportunities and challenges that emerge for employees at various levels of our organization. That’s a perspective I’m excited to share with our Leadership Team.”

She expressed gratitude that her already-rich “Medora story” gets to continue in this way. “I fell in love out here!” Klym says. “Not only with my husband, but with the landscape, the history, and the people. I’m so glad to be working in Medora.”

NEWS RELEASE: A Bigger, Better Medora Experience Means More Summer Jobs & Free Housing

(Medora, ND) – The Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF), in anticipation of its biggest summer season ever, is preparing to welcome a seasonal staff of hundreds of highly qualified people from all around the world—and to offer several perks for those employees.

TRMF is a year-round operation that employs 72 full-time staff members. In order to better serve the many thousands of guests who visit Medora in the summer, our staff grows to include hundreds of seasonal employees.

And in 2022, TRMF will have even more attractions and features in Medora for guests to experience:

To provide these new services—in addition to mainstays like the Medora Gospel Brunch, lodging at the historic Rough Riders Hotel, and tee times at Bully Pulpit Golf Course—TRMF is poised to hire 337 summer employees in 2022.

“Living and working in Medora makes for a summer unlike any other,” says Sara Michael, Talent Acquisition Specialist for TRMF. “And the summer ahead will be our biggest and most fun one yet. I’m eager to see our staff grow to include hundreds of wonderful people.”

As part of our hiring surge, the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation is offering several incentives and perks to our summer employees:

  • Housing will be provided at no cost to employees who reside in double-occupancy housing during their time in Medora
  • Employees will be eligible for a $300 end-of-season bonus
  • Referral bonuses of $200 are available to employees who recommend additional hires
  • Employees can attend the Medora Musical at no cost
  • Golf rounds for $11.00 at Bully Pulpit Golf Course for employees
  • More than $30,000 in scholarship and award opportunities are available for employees who demonstrate leadership and good character

“We often hear from our seasonal workforce that they have the best summer of their life when they work in Medora,” Michael says. “We’re happy that we can offer free room and board to our staff this year, in addition to the competitive wages and other great perks that come with spending a summer here.”

Anyone interested in applying to work in Medora is invited to see our full list of openings at this link.

VIDEO: Work and Explore in Medora!
PHOTOS: Employees on the job in Medora
LINK: Learn about employment in Medora

Remembering Harold Schafer and His Medora Legacy on His Birthday

Remembering Harold Schafer and His Medora Legacy on His Birthday

“My guess is that if I have a legacy, it’s going to be Medora, North Dakota.”

Those were the words of our founder, Harold Schafer, during an interview in 1997. In that wide-ranging discussion, he spoke about his philosophy on hard work, his success as a businessman, and the revitalization of historic Medora that he helped kick-start.

“Medora is real. It has real history. It’s not quite so flashy as Six Flags Over Texas,” Harold said, “but Medora has a greatness to it also.”

It was a greatness that couldn’t have happened without Harold’s help. In 1962 he renovated the Rough Riders Hotel. A few years later, the show we now know as the Medora Musical debuted in the Burning Hills Amphitheatre. And in the decades that followed, a run-down cowtown had become one of the country’s most exciting destinations for tourism.

“You can walk around the parking lot [at the Burning Hills Amphitheatre] and find cars from 30 or 40 different states in one night at the show,” he marveled in 1997.

That was twenty-five years ago—and it just so happened that during that interview, Harold was asked, “What’s Medora going to look like 25 years from now?”

Harold’s answer might surprise you: “I haven’t the slightest idea!”

He continued, “I had no knowledge it would ever be where it is now. I had no outline in my mind that it would grow like this. And if it should continue to grow, I don’t know what it’s going to be. But I think it’s going to continue to grow.”

We wish Harold could see what Medora has become 25 years after that interview. We believe he’d be proud of it.

On this, Harold’s 110th birthday, we’re remembering our founder fondly. We invite you to watch this excerpt from that 1997 interview. Harold doesn’t just discuss Medora; he covers his legacy, his philosophy of work, and more. It’s a fascinating look at a remarkable man!

“It Never Felt Like Work”: UND Alumni Magazine features TRMF President Randy Hatzenbuhler

“It Never Felt Like Work”: UND Alumni Magazine features TRMF President Randy Hatzenbuhler

Friends of Medora will see a familiar face in the pages of the latest University of North Dakota Alumni Magazine:

The President of our organization (and 1985 UND graduate), Randy Hatzenbuhler, shared his journey to the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation—and why 34 years later, he’s still in love with Medora.


“You’re going to die in Medora.”

That was Randy Hatzenbuhler’s wife’s blunt assessment after he gave a third three-year commitment to continue working for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (TRMF). The nonprofit organization runs the Medora Musical and dozens of other business enterprises in the gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota.

Now, after nearly 34 years with the organization, Randy, ’85, admits with a chuckle that she may have been right.

“I knew at that point (after six years with the organization) that I loved it,” said Randy. “It’s more work than people might understand, but it never felt like work. Hours didn’t matter. You are in a place where people are having fun. They love being here and you’re getting to help take care of them.”


That’s just a snippet of the UND Alumni Magazine’s piece. Click here to read the entire feature story on Randy!

2021 Summer Wrap-Up: Thank You from TRMF!

2021 Summer Wrap-Up: Thank You from TRMF!

Another summer has come to an end in Medora. But it was one we won’t soon forget.

In 2021, we had a celebration in Medora. We took hikes on a brand-new trail. We ate a whole lot of steak at the Pitchfork Steak Fondue. We made memories with our loved ones. We returned to old traditions, and even started some new ones.

And of course, we enjoyed the Greatest Show in the West. In fact, 123,992 people saw the Medora Musical this summer—our second-highest attendance ever.

To say thank you to everyone who made it such a memorable few months in Medora, we put a quick video together, featuring many faces of TRMF.

Enjoy—and we’ll see you again soon!

PODCAST: Bringing Teddy Roosevelt to Life with Joe Wiegand

We have some amazing people in Medora — it seems like the place has a gravitational pull for great talent and passionate people, maybe the most popular in history was THE Theodore Roosevelt.

Now, we celebrate the 26th President every day in Medora and at the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation . One of the very best combinations of great talent AND a connection to TR is our own Joe Wiegand, “Medora’s TR”.

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“I Love Medora”

A letter from Colton Keightley,

“My name is Colton Keightley. I am from Willamina, a very small town in Oregon and I am 20 years old. I consider myself somewhat of a unique individual, as I have Cerebral Palsy. Regardless, I do not let this hold me back from living my life to the fullest.”

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