John O’Leary shares optimistic message with employees & friends of TRMF

John O’Leary shares optimistic message with employees & friends of TRMF

“Why me?” “Who cares?” “What more can I do?”

Those three questions were at the center of a tremendous message delivered by John O’Leary to employees and friends of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation on Monday, July 11, 2022.

John’s appearance in the Burning Hills Amphitheatre was a gift to TRMF from two generous supporters of our organization — and a great many of our full-time and seasonal workforce were in attendance to hear what he had to say!

John O’Leary’s story is remarkable: when he was nine years old, he was burned on 100 percent of his body in an accidental explosion. Doctors gave him a 1 percent chance to survive. He overcame the odds — and today, he’s a bestselling author and motivational speaker who has presented in 49 states and 17 countries.

John shared with the audience in Medora that those three questions — Why me? Who cares? What more can I do? — can be framed in a negative or a positive way. He encouraged those listening to be victors instead of victims, and to live with gratitude and inspiration.

During the peak of Medora’s busy season, it was a great message for the hundreds of hard-working folks who make our TRMF mission possible! We’re grateful to have been given the gift of John O’Leary’s story.

Veterans and Military Appreciation Day 2022: Our biggest tribute to veterans ever!

Veterans and Military Appreciation Day 2022: Our biggest tribute to veterans ever!

Each day at the Medora Musical we strive to honor the men and women who have served our country. But July 10, 2022 was extra special in Medora!

Thanks to generous donors who have supported our Veterans Endowment, this year’s Veterans and Military Appreciation Day in Medora was bigger and more special than ever before.

This year we were able to:

  • Welcome 362 veterans, active duty, and reservist military members to the Medora Musical at no cost
  • Honor veterans with a speech by Vice Admiral David Architzel, the retired commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt
  • Dazzle the audience with a flyover by a historic Beechcraft T-32 Mentor aircraft
  • Welcome the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Color Guard from Mandan, ND to present colors before the Medora Musical
  • Host a special Q&A panel discussion with four distinguished veterans in the afternoon

We invite you to re-live the day by scrolling through our slideshow of images below!

We also want to extend an invite to you to support the Veterans Appreciation Day Endowment fund. It’s thanks to that growing fund that we were able to say ‘thank you’ to our nation’s heroes — and the more the fund grows, the more ways we’ll be able to extend our gratitude!

Learn more about the Veterans Endowment here. And follow this link if you’d like to chip in now!

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.

Bully Pulpit Golf Course set to open mid-May with two brand-new holes

The following story first appeared in our new print publication, Notes From the Trail.

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After a year of diligent work to secure the long-term future of Bully Pulpit Golf Course, golfers have much to look forward to in the coming season — including two brand-new holes and an improved, championship-level experience.

“After being a par 69 course in 2021, we’re excited to bring par up to 71 this year,” said Clubhouse Manager and PGA Head Golf Professional Patrick Rominger. “That’s thanks to two brand-new holes that we’re really proud of.”

The new Hole #8 from above. Par 4.

First is the new #8: a par 4 that will test players’ strategic skills. “It’s a tight tee shot,” Patrick said. “And golfers will have to use a shorter club as they approach the green.”

“#8 also has a really great Badlands backdrop from the green.” he added.

The new Hole #12 from above. Par 5.

The new par 5 #12 is all about risk versus reward. “If you’re aggressive off the tee, you can cut the corner off,” said General Manager Kirby Scharmann. “But some of the native grasses in that area could get you into trouble.”

Golfers can expect a smoother ride in 2022: more than have of Bully Pulpit’s cart paths have been upgraded from asphalt to concrete. “It should make for a more pleasant ride between holes,” Patrick said. “And it helps us prolong the lifespan of our carts!” Additional cart path upgrades will be made next offseason.

Part of the championship-level experience, Patrick said, is making sure every hole is challenging but fair. “For that reason, we’re taking time this summer to rework Hole #16,” he explained. “The view is beautiful, but the green has settled in such a way that it doesn’t always play fair.” Players can expect Hole #16 to return in 2023.

For now, our crew is excited about the state of Bully Pulpit for the year ahead, thanks to late winter and early spring moisture in western North Dakota. “We worked hard to prep the turf for a strong spring,” said Superintendent Kyle Fick. “Our guests will be in for a rewarding experience this season.”

Kirby put it this way with a smile: “It’s going to be a great summer of ‘good walks spoiled,’ as the saying goes.”

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Bully Pulpit Golf Course is scheduled to open to the public on Thursday, May 12th, weather permitting. Visit Medora.com/BullyPulpit to find a tee time!

How a teddy bear from Teddy Roosevelt made a family’s visit to Medora extra-special

At the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, nothing makes us happier than hearing people’s “Medora stories.”

This particular story — of Teddy Roosevelt, a teddy bear, and a young girl named Lily — has us smiling today.

Watch the video above to hear Lily’s great-grandparents, Mike and Marianne, share the story of a visit to Medora with three of their great-grandchildren.

“Lily was extremely sensitive to touch of any kind. She had never accepted a stuffed animal,” Marianne said.

That is, until she met Teddy Roosevelt (as portrayed by Joe Wiegand). He struck up a conversation with the three kids on the streets of downtown Medora before his one-man show began at the Old Town Hall Theater.

“When it was time for the show, we especially noted Lily paying attention to Teddy Roosevelt with everything she had,” Marianne said.

“At the close of his show, he came back holding a teddy bear,” she explained. He tossed it over to their family, intending for it to be given to Lily.

What happened next was a real surprise:

“She hugged it, and there was no way she would let go of it!” Marianne said. “She had to carry it wherever she went. She held it all through the Medora Musical. She hugged it on the drive back home. She hugged it when she went to bed that night.”

Seeing Lily embrace a stuffed animal for the first time is a memory Mike and Marianne won’t soon forget.

“The attention that Teddy Roosevelt gave to Lily — it was just beautiful,” Marianne says. “That teddy bear was a piece of joy for her for such a long time.”

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!