Posts in category Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation

Construction of Accessible Elevator at Burning Hills Amphitheatre Has Begun!

Construction of Accessible Elevator at Burning Hills Amphitheatre Has Begun!

The Burning Hills Amphitheatre in Medora isn’t exactly a busy destination in December, but we sure are excited about some activity that’s underway there this winter!

Ground-moving and construction work is officially underway on a high-capacity elevator—a major piece of our Access Medora initiative. Here are a few photos of the project as it stands in early December:

And here’s a rendering of how the elevator will look once it’s complete:

This project is incredibly important to us at the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. Why? Because it’s set to vastly improve the Medora Musical experience for guests with mobility challenges.

For years, those guests have depended on golf carts to enter and exit the amphitheatre. The carts shared a walkway designed for pedestrian traffic and becomes too congested when shared with carts. On busy nights, the wait to exit the amphitheatre can be as long as 45 to 60 minutes.

But once our high-capacity elevator is installed and ready, wait times will be drastically reduced—and the experience for our guests with mobility and sensory needs will be much improved. It will provide a safer, quicker, more enjoyable way to get into and out of the Burning Hills Amphitheatre.

We can’t wait to watch this project unfold over the coming months. And we’re grateful to the Engelstad Foundation, which provided a generous gift of $1 million to get the elevator project off the ground!

Click here to visit the TRMF website and learn more about Access Medora.

“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!

Rise Up: Celebrating Our TRMF Volunteers—and the Bright Days Ahead in Medora

“You are the embodiment of every value that the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation holds dear.”

That message from TRMF Volunteer Coordinator Peg Gunther was central to the 2021 Volunteer Appreciation Events, held in Fargo and Medora at the beginning of October.

The events—with the theme “We Rise”—capped what was a historic summer in Medora, largely thanks to the tremendous help of more than 600 passionate volunteers.

After months of wonderful work by these folks, we were glad to have the opportunity to serve them—to share laughter, memories, music, gratitude, and good news.

Good news like this: a $100,000 challenge donation from Dr. Lana and Warren Schlecht to pay for renovations at the Spirit of Work Lodge for volunteers in Medora!

Volunteers also heard the great news that longtime volunteer Marlene Hoffart made a significant six-figure donation to put Point to Point Park over the finish line—and ensure the new addition of a lazy river, a splash pad, pickleball courts, and much more is ready for families to enjoy by summer of 2022!

We also had the pleasure of sharing some special volunteers’ own stories with the group. They heard from Mike Johnson, a 15-year volunteer with a passion for sharing Medora with children:

And they heard the emotional story of Lonnie Bonner, who suffered a stroke in February—then persevered to volunteer for her 15th year in Medora:

At the conclusion of the events, Peg Gunther reminded our volunteers that they defy all preconceptions. “Many of us are retired or semi-retired, and at a stage in our lives where we can be made to feel like our best years are behind us,” Gunther said. “Well look around! You blow that stereotype out of the water.”


It’s impossible to overstate how much TRMF values its devoted team of volunteers. We can’t wait to see you all again in 2022!

Here’s a message of thanks to our volunteers on behalf of the whole Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation Team:

Relive the 2021 Medora Hot Air Balloon Rally & Badlands Kite Fest!

The final weekend of the Medora Musical had us looking skyward.

We sent off summer in Medora in a picture-perfect way: by inviting kite fliers of all skill levels to the 5th Annual Badlands Kite Fest. Watch the video above to meet a few of the kite lovers who made the weekend special!

And on Sunday, September 12th, we were treated to another colorful sight: the 18th Annual Medora Hot Air Balloon Rally!

Although less-than-ideal weather conditions required the balloons to be tethered to the ground for safety, it still made for an amazing finale to what was a wonderful summer in the Badlands. Enjoy a few photos below!

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!

Episode 5 of the Wisdom Chain Podcast: Daniel Gannarelli on the Wisdom Chain in Medora and on the Hockey Rink

Episode 5 of the Wisdom Chain Podcast: Daniel Gannarelli on the Wisdom Chain in Medora and on the Hockey Rink

How do words become wisdom?

How does wisdom become character?

To trace the answers to these questions and more, TRMF Development Team Member Daniel Gannarelli spoke to round out the first annual Wisdom Chain Day in Medora on June 15th, 2021.

In this final episode of our miniseries, the Wisdom Chain Podcast, hear Daniel explain how the Wisdom Chain Philosophy has come to life in his work, not only in Medora, but as a hockey coach.

And don’t forget to listen to the first four episodes of the Wisdom Chain Podcast, and hear from all of the great speakers who joined us in Medora to share their wisdom, leadership, and character!

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Episode 4 of the Wisdom Chain Podcast: Pastor Gerald Sharon on the Key to Unlocking Your Preferred Future

Episode 4 of the Wisdom Chain Podcast: Pastor Gerald Sharon on the Key to Unlocking Your Preferred Future

Why are you doing what you’re doing?

It might sound like a simple question, but it’s actually one of the most important things we can ask ourselves—at work, at home, and in every facet of our lives.

That’s the message that Pastor Gerald Sharon had to share with the audience at Wisdom Chain Day in Medora. And it’s the key point of the latest episode of the Wisdom Chain Podcast, available now wherever you listen to podcasts!

Gerald Sharon is a world-renowned faith leader who has led congregations as small as twenty and as large as twenty-thousand. He made the trip from California to deliver his message in Medora—and we think you’ll really enjoy it.

Remember to subscribe to the podcast at the links below, and listen to our previous episodes if you haven’t already!

Subscribe to The Wisdom Chain Podcast on:

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The Medora WISH: Thousands of families feel the impact this summer!

The Medora Wish Endowment is one of our fastest-growing and impactful funds at the TR Medora Foundation.

Why? Because in just a few short years, it’s helped thousands of kids see the Medora Musical and other attractions in Medora free of charge!

Take a few minutes to watch this story of how the Medora WISH began. Meet its founders—and some very special WISH recipients from 2021—and learn just how much greater its impact could be in the future!

Episode 3 of The Wisdom Chain Podcast: Laurel Nelson on the Code of the West

Episode 3 of The Wisdom Chain Podcast: Laurel Nelson on the Code of the West

In the stairwell of the Life Skills Center, our headquarters in Medora, a lovely mural greets employees and guests:

It displays “The Code of the West,” a set of ten guidelines for living inspired by the “cowboy ethics” of the Wild West. But there’s a lot that can be said for each of these tenets—much more than could fit on a wall!

So we hope you enjoy the third episode of The Wisdom Chain Podcast, a presentation by entrepreneur and TRMF Board of Directors member Laurel Nelson. It’s all about the Code of the West, and how we can apply it to our lives at work and at home.

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KX News: Long-time Medora volunteer survives stroke, returns for her 15th year

KX News: Long-time Medora volunteer survives stroke, returns for her 15th year

If you were watching KX News recently, you might have seen a familiar Medora face on your television!

Lonnie Bonner was featured by the local news outlet on Monday, August 2nd, 2021. She was featured for her incredible determination that she displayed after suffering a stroke in February:

“The 73-year-old did not let the stroke get in the way of doing what she loves most: volunteering.

“I had already signed up to volunteer out here, and I didn’t want to miss that,” Bonner added.

Volunteer Coordinator Peggy Gunther said it would not be the same without Bonner’s annual visit.

“It would have been a loss of spirit loss in this group to be very honest with you. Her sense of humor, her dedication, her joy is infectious. It just would have been a missing link,” Gunther said.

We strive to create positive, life-changing experiences for everyone who comes to Medora—and when Lonnie told us that her #1 goal post-stroke was to make it back out for a 15th summer of volunteering, our hearts were filled with pride.

We love all of our amazing volunteers, and we’re so thankful Lonnie made it back ‘home’ to Medora this summer!

Click here to see the whole story by KX News on Lonnie’s recovery and dedication to volunteering in Medora.