By Tom Stromme Bismarck Tribune
BOTTINEAU, N.D. — “Buy a home in North Dakota.” That was No. 7 on Ann Nicole Nelson’s famous bucket list that drew the attention of the New York Says Thank You Foundation.
Nelson, of Stanley, died on September 11, 2001, in Tower One of the World Trade Center, where she was working on the 104th floor. Her bucket list was published on her birthday, May 17, 2006, in the New York Times.
Gary Nelson said after his daughter’s list was published, he and his wife, Jenette, were contacted by the New York Says Thank You Foundation, which wanted to “pay it forward” in some way in North Dakota.
Several years later, the idea for Annie’s House became a reality. A groundbreaking last year fell on what would have been Ann’s 41st birthday.
A large construction party was held in September with 20 firefighters who survived the 9/11 attacks, along with ground zero construction workers and their families. They came to Bottineau to work alongside local volunteers in putting up Annie’s House, the area’s first adaptive sports center for people with physical and cognitive disabilities. It will also be for Wounded Warriors, soldiers who have served in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The interior of Annie’s House has 12,000 square feet of space with large windows in a commons area, allowing a panoramic view of the ski area’s slopes. The building will have separate areas for ski rentals and kitchen facilities, as well as an area for adaptive skiers.
Annie’s House will serve adaptive sports needs in North Dakota and neighboring Canada.
Last weekend, Gary Nelson was on hand to see the first adaptive skiers use the center.
Nelson, a 48-year member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, controlled the first bi-ski for a youth from Portland to ski down the hill at Bottineau Winter Park.
Also in attendance were two New Yorkers who are now very familiar with the Turtle Mountains after multiple visits to Bottineau — Jeff Parness, founder of the New York Says Thank You Foundation, and Charles Vitchers, lead superintendent of ground zero cleanup operations and the volunteer construction coordinator of Annie’s House. Both said the highlight of their visit was seeing the boy ski with Nelson.
Another person at the event was Sherry McCabe, who like Nelson is a PSIA level III ski instructor. McCabe, of Wisconsin, a repeat visitor to help with Annie’s House, was teaching an adaptive lesson clinic for those with special needs and a two-day class for PSIA Level I certification.
McCabe, who first met Nelson at a PSIA skiing event in Colorado and wears a bracelet with Ann Nicole Nelson’s name, ended the day by having her class form a huddle on the high slope overlooking the ski area.
The huddle ended with eight voices shouting “one, two, three — Annie’s House!” filling the air.