Annie’s House: Woman’s dream on list now a reality
Ann Nelson started a list of things she wanted to be or do. She didn’t live to complete the list, but one of her dreams on the list is now a reality, and others with adaptive needs can use it to enjoy the outdoors.
Nelson died on Sept. 11, 2001, during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
On Monday Nelson’s parents, Gary and Jenette Nelson, were at the Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown to commemorate the completion of Annie’s House, an 11,500 square-foot facility at Bottineau Winter Park that helps people of all abilities enjoy skiing and other outdoor activities.
Nelson grew up in Stanley, N.D., and after gaining experience in the financial field in Minneapolis and Chicago, she got a job in 2001 as a bond trader with an office in the World Trade Center. It was one of her life goals, to live and work in New York City.
Nelson’s parents were devastated by the loss of their only daughter. When Nelson’s personal property from New York was returned to her parents, they found her laptop computer. In amongst the files on the computer was “Annie’s 100,” which turned out to be a list of 36 items Nelson either wanted to be or to do. Included on the list was “Buy a house in North Dakota.”
Annie’s House is the result of the work of dozens of volunteers from as far away as New York City. Jenette Nelson said she felt a feeling of awe the first time she walked into the facility that is named after her daughter.
“Ann was such an exceptional person, she would’ve loved this,” she said.
The Bottineau Winter Park Board, the nonprofit foundation that runs the winter park facility and Annie’s House, received a federal government grant last fall to run an adaptive skills program, including adaptive skiing. The BWP Board hired the Anne Carlsen Center to run the program, according to Eric Munson, CEO of the Anne Carlsen Center.
“We schedule the trips, manage the program and work with Bottineau Winter Park to make sure everyone is getting out and enjoying the park,” Munson said.
Mike Cerkowniak was hired by ACC to run the Annie’s House adaptive skills program. He said since the beginning of January, the facility has been busy every weekend with adaptive ski groups learning what the facility has to offer.
“This is a year-round facility,” Cerkowniak said. “We have skiing right now, but in the warmer months we’ll have biking, hiking. There’s a small lake in the park and we’ll have paddle boats there.”
Jenette Nelson said friends of her daughter made copies of her daughter’s list. The list found its way into the hands of newspaper reporters, television producers, even comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, who had Nelson’s parents on her show to discuss the list.
Then after six or seven years, Jenette Nelson said she thought things had settled down concerning her daughter and the list. Then she got a call from Jeff Parness, founder and chairman of the New York Says Thank You Foundation, a nonprofit group that does projects in other states as a way to thank the people of those states for helping New York when it was in its time of crisis after 9/11.
Parness asked if it would be OK for him and other people to come to North Dakota to talk with Jenette and Gary about possibly doing something to honor their daughter.
“Ann liked to ski and she loved the Bottineau area,” Jenette Nelson said.
In May 2012 the groundbreaking occurred at Bottineau Winter Park. In September 2012, construction began and was completed in early December 2013.
Gary Nelson said there are a few minor things that need completing, but he is amazed at what the facility named after his daughter has become.
“It’s almost overwhelming, when I start thinking about how many people have worked on this, the hours people have put in, it’s hard to describe,” he said.
Ronald Deraas, a volunteer at the Bottineau Winter Park and member of its board of directors, said this has been a great project not only for himself but for the winter park staff and volunteers to be involved in.
For more information about Annie’s House, visit http://www. skibwp.com/anniespage.htm .
Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org