In addition to my NFDA role, I recently began my term as U.S. Vice President for the Rebild National Park Society. As with all organizations, the last year has been a difficult one for Rebild. First, after months of planning, last spring’s U.S. Rebild conference in March was canceled. Then came the cancellation of the 4th of July festival in Denmark. Since the organization began in 1912, this event has never been canceled other than during World War I and II. Now, the March 2021 conference has been postponed, moving it to October 2021. By then, we hope we can finally gather safely for the joyous Danish American events we all adore.
Also unusual are plans for the coming holiday season. Many organizations are planning virtual holiday events using Zoom and other technologies. There is little doubt that churches will live stream Christmas Eve services this year. I have attended some live gatherings in the last few weeks. However, I have found that even when following the protocols of wearing masks, practicing social distancing, using hand sanitizers and other regulations, I could never feel 100% comfortable. Hygge is hard to come by this year.
In general, the feeling of the Rebild board of directors is that a vaccine will be readily available in the U.S. and Denmark by next summer and hopefully before July 4th, most will have access to a vaccine. Meanwhile, we must all continue to act responsibly.
As this year slowly progresses, we dearly miss our family and friends more and more. We tire of pandemic-imposed precautions. We know that maintaining them will be especially difficult during the holidays. So let us not abandon hope. Let us be optimistic that by 2021, our normal lives with begin to return. As I saw recently “We isolate now, so when we gather again, no one is missing”. Med Venlig Hilsen - Bruce
Hiking the Colorado Trail was always something I had in the back of my mind, but I really never thought I would have the time or opportunity to attempt it. Then, the COVID pandemic arrived. My summer trip to Denmark was canceled, and, to paraphrase John Muir, the mountains started calling, so I went!
Prior to beginning the hike, we (the NFDA) decided to make it a fundraiser for Danish America. I knew this would add some pressure for me. As the response to our call and participation in the fundraiser climbed, I felt a huge obligation to complete the 500-mile hike. Failure was not an option! Honestly, it really worried me. Not many 60+ year-olds do this! About one-third way through the hike, my knees and my left ankle were killing me. It was raining every night, and the mornings were a wet mess of swatting mosquitos and packing away drenched gear. In my mind I was composing the reasons why I had to give it up. Then miraculously my knee and ankle pain went away, and the skies cleared up. It was truly an answer to my prayers. I began to believe I could do this. I would just take it a day at a time, and not dwell on the hundreds of miles remaining. Days and miles passed, and the end seemed in reach. When I reached Creede and read so many messages of encouragement on social media, it truly lifted my spirits, and I thank all of you for that! I felt stronger, and each day I enjoyed the majesty of the mountain scenery, and the days became so much more fun. The last 2 weeks of the hike were truly a joy, as I passed through the San Juan mountain range in reach of the finish. Tears welled up in my eyes as I approached the finish to see my “base camp support team” waiting for me beyond an arch of Danish and American flags. There stood my cousin Reed Bro, his wife Jamie, champagne in hand to celebrate!
Beyond being a personal accomplishment, I am most pleased that, together with your help and commitment, we were able to support Danish American organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for your generosity and enthusiasm in getting behind this fundraising effort. Thank you for all your pledges and encouragement! My NFDA colleagues - Linda Steffensen, Katrine Vange, and Karin Wasler, and I are truly grateful for your support, and we look forward to many more future projects to support Danish America! Tusind tak! - Bruce
Flashback to the week of March 8, 2020:
-The World Health Organization declares the corona virus outbreak is a global pandemic.
-Hundreds of schools and thousands of businesses close.
-Wall Street suspends trading twice and on Thursday, the DJIA drops 10%.
-The MLB, NBA and all NCAA sport seasons are canceled.
-Music concerts and special events are being canceled around the country.
-Friday the 13th, it suddenly hits home. Our April Rebild conference is canceled.
Having spent months helping plan this event and looking forward to welcoming so many to Arizona, I was stunned by the news. Soon, events were canceling daily across Danish America. The following week, I canceled the family tour I was leading to Denmark. Everyone was in lockdown…isolated at home.
During the lockdown I took to the hiking trails near my house in north Phoenix. For many years I have been an avid hiker; it was so good to get out of the house and stretch my legs. On one of those hikes, I started thinking about backpacking a trail that has been on my bucket list a long time…the Colorado Trail. From Denver to Durango, it winds its way for 500 miles through some of the most scenic mountain landscapes in America. I thought, “This is the time.”
Climbing the trails has always brought me inspiration. As I ambled along, drafting my Colorado Trail itinerary, it hit me, “Why not make this a fundraiser for Danish America?” I brought the idea to the rest of the board of the National Foundation for Danish America: Katrine Vange, Linda Steffensen, and Karin Wasler. They agreed and helped plan it. Now it’s set.
COVID-19 has taken its toll on us in many ways. Danish American organizations have been hard hit financially with event cancellations, and they see their revenue and funding sources beginning to dry up. We would like to help turn that around. Together, we can all make an impact.
It’s simple… First, pick your favorite Danish American organization. Next, pledge either per mile, or for a set amount for the entire hike. When I complete the trip, we’ll send you a notice, post it on Facebook and on our website. Finally, you send your pledge directly to your favorite organization. They receive 100% of the proceeds.
Until then, I’m getting ready, hiking as much as I can! Starting June 29, we will share the fun by posting progress reports, photos and videos from the trail to our website and Facebook page. I should arrive in Durango, Colorado in mid-August, six weeks and 500 miles later.
Won’t you please make a pledge? Your favorite Danish American organization needs your help! Find the link to the pledge form at www.DanishAmerica.org then, follow the “Hiking Viking” on the Colorado Trail!
History is in the making. Significant events happen that we look back on our entire lives. COVID-19, the coronavirus, the 2020 Pandemic; however you name it, we will all remember. Our first concern is the health of our loved ones -- families, friends, and those most vulnerable. May we all stay healthy as we get through this.
Danish America is just like the rest of the world. As you scroll through the postings on our website, you see nearly every event is postponed or canceled. Venues have been restricted in some way. Museums are closed or have restrictions; Danish churches have canceled services; and Danish Homes for the elderly are effectively quarantined to ward off the virus. As well, the annual Rebild National Park Society conference in Arizona is canceled. Almost all Danish American gatherings are affected. We will wait this out until the threat eventually passes.
In a few weeks, we all hope things will return to normal, but it could be longer. Before we know it, festival season will begin in May with Elk Horn's Tivoli Fest. Danish language and family camps are being planned for the Spring and Summer. In addition, many of us are planning to attend the 4th of July Rebild Festival in Denmark. We pray that the next two seasons' calendars will take place as scheduled.
While we abide by the changes required of us, let's keep in "touch". In the words of Victor Borge, "A smile is the shortest distance between two people." So, post your smiles :-), "hygge" with each other, send a "hilsen" using phones and social media. At no other time in history could we be more closely connected while more physically apart. Let's use the tools at our command to lift each other's spirits!
As circumstances unfold in Danish America, we will keep you updated.
Warm regards, mange venlige hilsener, and may this soon be history, Katrine, Linda, Karin and Bruce.
On the first day of 2020, we launched our new website and asked you to please subscribe to our weekly events email “What’s Happening in Danish America.” Not only did you respond in great numbers, you also overwhelmed us with wonderful complements about our new venture. Mange Tak for your kind words and enthusiastic response! We are pleased beyond expectation at this level of success.
Perhaps you are using our events calendar to help with your schedule, or, you’ve found events and organizations near you that you didn’t even know existed. I hope that when you see all the Danish American events happening across the country, you will take part in them, near and far. So much is happening: compelling museum exhibits, interesting lectures, engaging workshops and delightful social events taking place coast to coast! Soon it’s February, Fastelavn month! Already, you will find many activities scheduled to mark a festive beginning of the Lenten season. Across the United States and throughout the spring and summer, wonderful celebrations are now starting to appear on our events calendar. Why not enhance your travels by attending one or more of these on your next trip?
I would like to call your attention to one major event happening this spring. The Rebild National Park Society is holding its annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona from March 29 to April 7. “Rebild”, founded in 1912, is probably the oldest Danish American friendship association. For over one hundred years, thousands of Danes and Danish-Americans have come together on July 4th in the Rebild hills near Aalborg to celebrate this relationship at their annual festival. Newly elected president Jørgen Bech Madsen of Aalborg heads the society. In his first year in office, Madsen has brought new energy to the Rebild community, igniting the creation of many new ideas. Rebild is determined to grow.
Membership in “Rebild” is not required to attend the Phoenix conference, or the 4th of July Festival in Aalborg, so everyone is encouraged to attend. You will find the Rebild schedule on our website. As I’ve been involved in planning and meeting arrangements for the conference, feel free to email any questions at email@example.com. Participate as little or as much as you’d like, but please come. Registration is available on our website. We’d love to see you in Phoenix!
Finally, from Karin, Katrine, Linda and myself, thank you once again for your warm reception and enthusiastic support. We each look forward to seeing you at a Danish event very soon!
Velkommen til National Foundation for Danish America! This past year Karin Stehr Schoen Wasler of Los Angeles, Linda Steffensen and Katrine Vange of Chicago and I have worked to form this new organization. Many of you know us as active members of the Danish American community. Like you, we love our Danish heritage and want to preserve it, promote its rich culture, and pass it on to our families as well as the next generation. For years we have wanted a way for all Danish American organizations across the United States to connect and encourage those of Danish American heritage and interest to become more involved. Our goal is to help all Danish American organizations thrive.
One way we plan to do this is through our weekly email “What’s Happening in Danish America”. By subscribing to this free email, you receive periodic updates on coming events from nearly all Danish-American organizations, as well as some in Denmark. You will also be able to register for some of their events on our web site. This will benefit many local organizations through the saving of time as well as the accuracy and efficiency this convenience provides.
We also want to help local organizations with fundraising efforts. Operating as a clearinghouse, we will accept donations for various Danish-American organizations allowing contributors to receive an immediate tax deduction but still control how the funds are distributed to the organization of their choice. Through our website we will accept donations for organizations, making it easier for local organizations to administer a fund raising event. This capability has many possibilities.
We will provide other unique services when we see the opportunity. One example occurred last fall when we helped the University of Southern Denmark with a research project by facilitating a focus group for a study on the American knowledge of H.C. Andersen. Recently, we also helped facilitate Danish artist Suzanne Thea’s “Snapshots” exhibit at the Danish Lutheran Church in Yorba Linda. Always, we will look for unique and proactive ways to help the Danish American community. We encourage Danish American organizations to contact us about ways we can help with your projects.
Once again, Velkommen! Please take a look around our website. Remember to register for the weekly events email. We look forward to seeing all of you at future events as together we expand participation and enrich Danish culture and heritage!
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