Healing Angels: My Story

Cancer Survivor was not a title I ever thought I’d possess by the age of 41. 

I however, approached it head-on, plowing through surgeries, treatments and doctors’ appointments.  Cancer was not going to beat me.

And although my cancer journey was a fairly positive one, I found that in a blink of an eye, I started to feel lost and quite honestly, somewhat depressed.  It was taking a toll on my day to day life and the interactions that I had with family and friends.

Active treatments are complete, now what?!?  No one is checking in on me.  What should I be doing?  How should I be feeling?  What if I don’t want this “new normal”?  Although I had a good support system, I somehow felt so alone.

After I finished chemo I found that people would constantly say the phrase, “So you’re done now, right?”.  Little did they know I had so many thoughts and feelings running through my head.  Stuff that kept me up at night.  Medical personnel were no longer monitoring my everyday actions.  It really became a struggle to go back to living my old life after this thing called cancer just disrupted everything I’d known and trusted.

And then a friend shared Angel on My Shoulder with me.  Little did I know this small action would give me my life back.  I was a little skeptical at first, not knowing how a short weekend with a bunch of strangers could possibly be helpful.  But after reading up on it a little more, I said, “What have I got to lose?”  I can do this… Go, share, listen and most importantly relax.  I owed it to myself, to my children and to my husband.   I needed to get back on track – and take control of my life again.

Not knowing what to expect, I found myself a little anxious about going.  But the anxiety quickly faded, as I was cheerfully greeted by Nancy and her awesome team of angel volunteers.  As other attendees started to arrive, it quickly became evident that The-Big-C really knows no boundaries.  The room was filled with survivors from all kinds of backgrounds, ages and types and stages of cancer – each of them telling of their own personal journey.  We shared meals, stories, resources, laughter and tears.  I realized that each of our paths was absolutely unique, but when stepping back, we all really experienced the same thoughts and feelings during treatment and recovery.

I gained so much that weekend.  I spent it with a bunch of strangers that I now think of as friends.  It gave me confidence.  It helped me to know that I’m not going crazy.  And that a “new reality” is something that can be embraced and entered into at my own pace.  Throw in some laughter, smiles, survivor-focused yoga, pampering, gifts and relaxation – It made an impact on my life that will not be forgotten.  Most importantly it helped me to close the door on cancer.

And even though I still have periodic appointments, I’ve given myself permission to move on.

If you or a loved one is hoping to figure out what to do during the next phase of cancer, consider checking out Healing Angels, a program by Angel on My Shoulder.

– Tracy Hengst.  Breast Cancer Survivor.  Diagnosed Oct 2014.

Camp Teen Angel 2018

By Kathy Mathie

A small but energetic group of 13 campers graced our 2018 Camp Teen Angel July 13-16, 2018. Camp Manito-wish YMCAin Boulder Junction, WI was our home for the long weekend and the staff and facilities were fabulous. Thanks to our wonderful counselors, Kyle Schmidt, Joel Depons, Magen Zettelmeier, Chloe Springer, Alyssa Brugger and Laura Beilke who led our group.

A nature hike and campfire opened our camp on Friday with s’mores and stories, for sure.

We rode horses on Saturday, many for the first time. Thanks to Holiday Acres for graciously offering us go-cart rides as well. We aced the track. Saturday afternoon included games and canoeing and knockerballs were a hit Saturday evening.

Sunday began on the high ropes course and we had a blast flying through the trees and a pirate adventure on Sunday afternoon included “walking the plank”. Thanks to Captains Steve and Stev-o at the Pirates Hideaway in Eagle River. Sunday evening, we had a dance with DocGary as our DJ and “And we danced (oh) – And we laughed (oh) – And had a really, really, really good time” (Macklemore).

We are already looking forward to next year’s camp, FridayMondayJuly 12-15, 2019.

Charlie Kotke and Peggy Nimz: A Dynamic Duo for Angel On My Shoulder

Charlie Kotke and Peggy Nimz: A Dynamic Duo for Angel On My Shoulder

Mark McNease

Peggy Nimz and Charlie Kotke have become familiar faces at Angel On My Shoulder. Born and raised in St. Germain, Peggy (maiden name Breese) has been married to her husband Scott for 29 years and the couple has one son, Ryan. Peggy works at Ascension Ministry Medical Group in Woodruff as a Certified Medical Assistant, while Scott is a general contractor with his own business of 30-plus years.

“I love being able to go into St. Germain and know most of the locals,” Peggy said, adding that St. Germain is growing and there are many new faces, too.  “I used to own my own business (P.S.S. Inc. Professional Secretarial Service in St. Germain) and started doing small jobs for Angel On My Shoulder.”

During this time Peggy wore many caps. She was on the Town Board, the Board for the Chamber of Commerce, the Snowmobile Club, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Plum Lake Ambulance Service. “But nothing has or will ever compare to Angel On My Shoulder.”

Charlie Kotke hails from Park Falls, Wisconsin, where he was a volunteer fireman and worked as an EMT with the Park Falls Ambulance Service.

“Since graduating from nursing I have worked with Ministry Health Care, which is now Ascension,” Charlie said. “I’m currently the Regional Manager of Transport Services for Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport.”  Charlie manages ground and air ambulance operations for the region that services five hospitals within Ascension as well as other facilities in the area.

Asked how he first got involved with Angel On My Shoulder, Charlie said, “Peggy is actually how I got involved. Peggy and I work together and I became friends with her family – her husband and son. Peggy had worked with Angel On My Shoulder and asked me to help with the golf outing several years back.”

Peggy’s involvement began in 2003 when she was on the Town Board for St. Germain.

“My husband and I were asked to represent the Town Board at the dinner,” Peggy said. “I had mentioned to Lolly at the end of the dinner that we would love to volunteer.  And so it began.”

Over the next few years Peggy, her husband and their son helped during the Golf Spectacular and it kept growing with more friends and family stepping in. “During this time I was working for Oneida County Ambulance and Northwoods Transfer which evolved into what is today, Spirit Medical Transport,” said Peggy. “I worked with Charlie Kotke and we became the coordinators for the event.”

Until recently Charlie and Peggy were involved in the fund raising portion of Angel On My Shoulder. “For the past few years, since we started with Camp Hozhoni, we were able to see where all the fund raising money went to,” Peggy said. “By sending a child to camp or sending their whole family and giving them a chance to get away from everything. By seeing how the fundraising helps everyone, it makes us more eager to raise money for such a great cause.”

For Camp Hozhoni, Charlie and Peggy provide medical services for the campers and their families. “Over the past few years we have gained many friends through this event and look forward to it every year,” Peggy said.

Their focus the last two years has been on the golf event.  “In the past we did both the course and dinner and needed a vacation afterwards!” Peggy said. Currently they organize every detail on the course, “From our friends and family that volunteer and make the day a huge success, to the businesses that donate food, beverages, equipment, etc.”

Added Charlie, “For the first few years I was involved as a volunteer for the golf event – working the beverage cart and picking up trash mostly. Then over the last several years Peggy and I have been the coordinators for the event, which is the largest fundraiser for Angel On My Shoulder.”

In addition to the golf event, Charlie and Peggy have been involved with Winter Camp Hozhoni. “I had been involved in another camp in the area volunteering as camp nurse for a week long autism camp,” Charlie said. “So when Winter Camp Hozhoni was started in 2016, Lolly had asked if Peggy and I would be willing to help with the camp. For the last three years we have provided the first aid and registration support for the camp, along with helping in any other way we can to make the families that attend that camp have an extraordinary weekend that is focused on fun and not illness.”

Asked about their fondest memories as volunteers, Peggy said, “Meeting the Packers is awesome! At camp we meet so many kids that are affected with cancer and their enthusiasm is contagious. I pray to God every night that these kids bounce back and live full and happy lives. Nobody deserves it as much as them.”

As for the golf event, Peggy added, “We had a horrible storm come through at the end of one tournament and the volunteers all worked together to get the golfers and the food vendors get off the course and into safety. It was amazing how everyone worked together.  I’m so proud of this group and can’t be more grateful for Charlie!”

Charlie added, “The greatest thing I get from volunteering is the friendship and the feeling of accomplishment. Working in the health care field, I have learned that everyone is having a worse day than you are. I look at these kids and their families, seeing how strong they are, then I know that I can make a difference to somebody. Whether it’s a smile, touch, or just listening. I try to ask myself at the end of each day, ‘Did I make a difference today?’”

Charlie added two of his favorite quotes:

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”
~Elizabeth Andrew

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
~Winston Churchill

A Recipe for Compassion with Joe and Kathy Lass

A Recipe for Compassion with Joe and Kathy Lass

Mark McNease

Owners of the Wolf Pack Cafe in St. Germain, Joe and Kathy Lass first met at the Vilas County Fair in August, 1988. According to Kathy, “It was love at first sight.” After dating for a year and realizing they needed more than seasonal work in the Northwoods, they decided to move to the Racine County area to start a new life with year-round jobs.

“Joe and I both moved into management positions quickly and decided to get married May 26th ,1990. We came back to Eagle River to celebrate our wedding day with all our friends and family,” said Kathy.

Joe managed a poured concrete foundations crew and Kathy managed a bar and grill, but their hearts were still in the Northwoods. “We came up to visit family the summer of 1998 and a friend told us the St. Germain Cafe had just gone up for sale,” reports Kathy. “I said to Joe, ‘Let’s go look at it!’” The place was in desperate need of some tender loving care, but Kathy believed that with a little elbow grease, paint and effort it would be fine.

“It had a great location in downtown St. Germain,” Kathy said. “We put an offer in that day and closed on it in December.” On January 12th, one day shy of their one year anniversary, they received a phone call telling them they’d been awarded “Restaurant of the Month” by Discover Wisconsin. That was for February, 2000, and Kathy said it changed their lives. “It gave us the confidence we needed to keep bettering ourselves and Joe became an amazing self-taught cook. We are now looking at our 20th anniversary on January 13, 2019 and have loved all the people and the friends we have met and the employees that helped us get here.”

Kathy and Joe first became familiar with Angel On My Shoulder 21 years ago when Joe’s cousin Linda was diagnosed with terminal cancer and wanted to come home from California to Wisconsin to see family before she died. “We needed help financially to get her whole family here for a heartbreaking goodbye,” said Kathy. “Joe’s family and the Roses were neighbors in the 1980’s in Eagle River, and Joe’s mom knew about the foundation Lolly Rose had started after Dick Rose died. Joe’s mom (Jan Lass) called Lolly and asked if she could help, and without hesitation she assisted in facilitating bringing Linda and the family back to Wisconsin. Joe and I felt if we could ever give back to Angel On My Shoulder, we would. Lolly is truly an Angel on Earth!”

The Lasses got involved with the Packers and Angel On My Shoulder when Lolly asked them if they could cook for the golfers in a silent auction they were doing. That became Breakfast at the Wolf Pack with the Packers in 2007. “We have been doing it every year since,” said Kathy. “Meeting all the Packers has also been a highlight. It is so cool that they offer their time giving back. Especially William Henderson and Gilbert Brown. They are our true heroes! Watching little kids eyes light up when they come in the cafe is amazing.”

Joe and Kathy had to give up cooking for all the golfers on the course but hope to someday be able to do it again.  “I am certain will we always be there for Angel On My Shoulder as long as Lolly will have us!”

When asked about their fondest moments volunteering, Kathy said “The smiles that Lolly brings to everyone she meets. She is a such an inspiration for everyone to get involved. What one woman with this amazing heart can do is amazing in itself.”

Kathy said Lolly has brought a whole town together to help those in need. “Lolly brought 5-year-old Cameron, who had cancer, to the cafe and we played with cars on the counter, and then we went into the kitchen and we let him hit the bell for the waitresses to come pick up their food. Little Cameron and his brother were so happy to be able to hit that bell. It was nice to see him smile.  Knowing Lolly and what she has taught us in the art of caring is my fondest memory.”

Camp Angel : July 2018

Camp Angel (ages 7-12) was held July 6–8, 2018. An enthusiastic group of forty-one incredible campers joined us for our summer Camp Angel experience.

This awesome group of young campers was warmly greeted by Campsite Co-Directors, Dick & Amy Lemke. A Tree House, Ark, Fort and Tower were the unique weekend lodging of our camper groups: Bunnies, Foxes, Bears and Wolves.

A one of a kind pirate trip adventure on the Strauss Family’s incredible Pirate Ship in Eagle River with Captains Steve and Steve-O Strauss at the helm started off our Saturday activity events. Our deepest thanks goes out to the Strauss’s for providing this always exciting expedition. Highlights of the many fun-filled activity offerings to follow included water craft rides, (always a favorite), swimming, boat rides and a variety of crafts. We all gathered at the end of the day for our traditional dance night with Angel’s own DJ, Dan Scafaro.

We proudly salute our outstanding team of counselors: Alex Graziano, Nikki Graziano, Mason Hageny, Hadley Krus, Tyrel Miller, Alayna Perry, Kenzie Pipes, Corey Ruplinger, Cali Sanborn, Sophie Spiess, Isak Walker and Walker Wendt.

A huge round of applause to our Angel volunteer family: Dick & Amy Lemke, Rob & Traci Graziano, Wendy Lawfer, Laura Roof, Jon & Michelle Perry, Tommy Geraty, Mike Herr, Dave Hughes, Sue Lemke, Dan & Kathleen Oberneder (Caroline, Emily & Lily) Jennifer Schoeneck-Peterson (Jeffrey & Marlie), Mark Peterson, Mary & Otto Schoeneck, Amy Skubal, Dustin & Kendal Wadinski and Dove & Shade. A grateful shout out goes to Nancy and Tom Schuller for their above and beyond help. A special acknowledgment to Camp Luther in Three Lakes and its fantastic staff for helping to make this a very memorable weekend.


The Twenty Second Annual B. Bruce Krier Angel On My Shoulder held in June 2018, was a resounding success with 100 plus and then some golfers coming out swinging on the renowned St. Germain Golf Course, the largest and fastest 18-Hole course in the beautiful north woods of Wisconsin. Another phenomenal year of raising thousands of dollars to make a positive and profound difference to those in the cancer affected community.

We gratefully recognize “Spectacular” presenting sponsors, Sharon Murillo & Serve-You RX and the Brian & Khristy Dominick Family for their remarkable generosity in helping to make this event everything it was meant to be and more.

A heartfelt and huge THANKS to ALL the “Spectacular” sponsors along with Jeff and Joy Sievert, owners/operators of the beautiful Whitetail Inn in St. Germain, Wisconsin, outstanding hosts of our awards banquet.

Three Packer greats-Gilbert Brown, William Henderson & Earl Dotson honored us with their presence and participation both on the course and at the celebration and awards dinner..

Long time friends and supporters of AOMS, Joe and Kathy Lass, owners of the award winning Wolf Pack Café in St. Germain, Wisconsin graciously hosted the annual “Breakfast with the Packers” prior to the golfers taking to the course.

We were truly blessed to have area business establishments prepare, provide and serve outstanding food offerings for the day of golfing for our participants. We gratefully acknowledge Eagle River Roasters, Eagle Waters Resort-Eagle River, Riverstone Restaurant-Eagle River, Slo’s Pub-Arbor Vitae and Spangs Italian Restaurant-St. Germain.

It was an honor to name Mark & Lisa Rose, Mark O’Connell and all the Discover Mediaworks and Wisconsin Counties Association team members as our 2018 Golf Honorees in tribute to their generous and unending support of those living with or affected by cancer.

Michelle Thompson was proudly named recipient of the Pandora Bracelet. The passing forward of this cherished bracelet is a golf spectacular tradition created and implemented by our eternal Angel, Bruce Krier.

The one and only, Vincent Bunny, was again the highlight of the live auction. This inspirational bunny is a “give back” tradition that our forever Angel, Bruce Krier, started at the very first golf spectacular. Each year “Vincent” is purchased by the highest bidder and donated back for next year’s auction to raise even more monies to champion our cancer support programs. Highest bidder record holders of this coveted bunny, John & Kathy Dirkse, were again this year’s winners.

A special shout out to Peggy Nimz and Charlie Kotke, the “Spectacular Golf Course Co-Coordinators” along with our sponsors; golfers; and volunteers and all those involved in making the B. Bruce Krier Angel Golf Spectacular the unparalleled event it has become.