Annie Lives On Through Her Bucket List
Honoring North Dakotan Annie Nelson, a 9-11 victim
September 11, 2001 turned life upside down for all Americans. It definitely did for Annie Nicole Nelson's family. Anne was in one of the World Trade Center towers and lost her life. She was the only person from North Dakota to die in the 9-11 attacks.
Through the heartache, Annie's family was still able to find a purpose. As they were going through her things, they found her laptop. They came across a bucket list she'd created. As a young woman, she saw the importance of enjoying life to its fullest.
One thing listed within her bucket list was she wanted to build a home in North Dakota. Her bucket list made its way to foundations and people who were here to help her dream become a reality.
Several groups of good neighbors came together to fulfil this wish. They also added a special component connecting to her family life growing up. Anne’s mother was a special education teacher, and Annie loved working with special needs kids. Anne’s dad taught ski lessons for 50 years.
The end result was a group transforming a ski park at Turtle Mountain in western North Dakota into a place wounded warriors and people with disabilities could enjoy.
State Farm® Agent Bryan Schweitzer and his wife, Heidi, were part of the group wanting to help. Bryan knew Annie’s family and volunteered to fix up the lodge.
"More than 400 people showed up the first day and came back for the next five to seven days to support the effort,” shared Bryan.” It was great to see the community come together."
The ski park, now called Annie's House, is a 12,000 square foot facility with fishing ponds and hiking trails. The park is adaptive for people with special needs, and has a trained staff ready to help. Scholarships are available to help with travel and other costs.
Bryan and Heidi continue to help the lodge in various ways. Bryan volunteers at least 40 hours a year at the lodge. State Farm donates $500 to the organization because of Bryan’s volunteer hours. The couple attends various fundraising events and allows the lodge to use their ATVs and side by sides.
Bryan also spends a lot of time raising money for the program and helped set up the fishing program at the park. He also is very involved with the Race Club.
With continued support, more and more people are able to enjoy it each year. Visitors and volunteers wrote messages within the rafters of the lodge to keep inspiring people who visit.
The simple messages remind visitors to live and plan for the lives they envision. Volunteer for a charity, be a better friend, learn to knit a sweater. These were some of the other items on Annie's bucket list.