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Burgundy broadcast helps in brother’s recovery

GRAND FORKS — When Amber Schatz found out she was going to be anchoring a Bismarck newscast with actor Will Ferrell, she had to keep it a secret.

So the only person she told was her brother, Nathan Schatz, who was being treated for traumatic brain injury at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks after a car accident Oct. 29.

After a month of watching Nate slowly improve in the hospital, Amber’s opportunity to anchor her regular newscast with surprise guest Will Ferrell — in character as dim-witted newsman Ron Burgundy to promote his movie “Anchorman 2” — was just what she needed to stay positive.

“It was a dream come true during a very difficult time,” Amber said.

When Amber told her brother the big secret, days before the newscast, he still wasn’t retaining much information.

“It was hard, because he wasn’t reacting like he normally would,” she said. She described Nate as hilarious, and said if he had been more himself, she “knew he would think it was crazy.”

But Nate did remember the news about his sister and Ferrell.

“He told people after, and they didn’t believe him,” until the newscast aired, Amber said, laughing.

The next time Amber saw her brother, about a week after working with Ferrell, Nate had had his “wake-up week” at Altru. He was finally acting more like himself.

Working with Ferrell

Between her brother’s car accident and her newscast with Ferrell, the past few months have been “a roller coaster of emotions,” Amber said.

She didn’t fully believe she’d be anchoring with Ferrell until he was in the Bismarck studio and she “saw that mustache up close.”

“He was hilarious as Ron Burgundy and as Will Ferrell,” Amber said. She described Ferrell as “polite, sweet, soft-spoken and hilarious with everyone.”

“I treasure every single moment (of working with him),” she said. “It was so fun.”

The spotlight put on Amber after appearing on TV with Ferrell has helped her help her brother while he recovers from the accident.

Amber was recently approached by Raygun, a T-shirt company in Iowa, asking if they could put an image of her and Ferrell on a T-shirt, accompanied by the phrase: “You stay classy, North Dakota!”

Amber asked Raygun to give her portion of the T-shirt’s proceeds to her brother, noting that the shirts would probably sell better because it’s for a good cause.

After eight weeks of therapy and rehab at Altru, Nate, 34, is now living in New England, N.D., with his parents. Before the accident, he was working in Stanley, N.D., and he had previously lived in Grand Forks.


Nate and Amber, both University of North Dakota alumni, are traveling with their family to Grand Forks on Saturday for a benefit for Nate, organized by friends.

At the benefit there will be a silent auction including autographed Minnesota Wild and UND hockey jerseys, gift baskets, hotel rooms, party buses, an iPad and gift cards, said Jenna Whitcomb, an organizer.

And even now, months later, Amber’s experience working with Ferrell is intertwined with her brother’s recovery.

Amber went to Scheels in Bismarck on Thursday to buy some of the Burgundy shirts to bring to the benefit this weekend, and an employee who didn’t recognize her told her the shirts had been selling fast.

When Amber told the employee who she was, he told other employees and customers, and Amber ended up signing a few autographs.

Amber said she’s grateful that her brother survived the car accident and brain injury with his personality and sense of humor intact, and she’s grateful for the positive boost brought by her surprise celebrity newscast.

“It brought this wonderful story to my family in such a hard time,” she said.

On the Web: See highlights from Amber Schatz’s newscast with Will Ferrell:

Charly Haley
Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.
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