Myles Lemke, Volunteer Angel

Myles Lemke, Volunteer Angel
By Mark McNease

Myles Lemke is passionate about supporting the mission of Angel On My Shoulder and has been actively involved with its programs and fundraising for many years. From the Polar Bear Plunge, to serving as a head counselor for Camp Angel, Myles has shared his enthusiasm and dedication with everyone he meets, from his fellow volunteers to the kids at camp.

Myles currently lives in Muskego, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. He works as a repair welder and has been in the welding industry for about six years.  He’s the youngest of his family, with one older brother, Cody.

“When I am not at work, I usually spend my time hunting or fishing,” Myles said. “I am an avid deer and bird  hunter and fish mostly in the winter.  Although I bow fish quite a bit in the spring and  like to golf when I can in the summer as well.”

Myles first became involved with Angel On My Shoulder when he was a child by going to the Polar Plunge with his father and mother, Dick and Dawn Lemke, when Dawn was diagnosed with cancer. “My father jumped every year since it started and I began volunteering with my mother at the winter camp.”

Myles said the adults would give kids rides on their snowmobiles on the lake, and they brought him along to help with getting helmets on the kids. 

“My mother was diagnosed again when I was in 5th grade, I believe,” said Myles. “While sick she still drove those kids around the lake even when it was 20 below. My mother was the strongest woman I have ever met.”

Myles sad that although his time with her was limited, he feels very grateful for it. “Many kids come from broken homes and bad situations, but my parents loved my brother and me. They were perfect parents with the situation they were dealt.”

Myles was initially just a spectator at the Plunge but has since jumped for the past ten years. “I have only missed two plunges due to me living out of state,” he said. “I would say my involvement is anything they need help with, and jumping of course.”

Now a head counselor for Camp Angel, Myles described his time with camp as a wild ride. “I was really shy and unsure when I was a camper,” he said. “But I quickly observed that all the kids around me were going through the same thing, which was great for me to see because I didn’t know anyone else my age going through it.”

Myles said that once he became a counselor it was amazing to watch the kids open up over the weekend. “Some kids like myself were very shy and quiet,” he said. “When they arrive at camp, and about halfway through the first night, they start to break through that shyness. You can see them realize that they are not alone, they are not the only kid who is going through this. Which is great because it allows them to put their guard down and be a kid and have fun, to me that’s why we do it.”

Myles said his favorite memories of his time volunteering are the ones he’s shared with his family throughout their involvement with Angel On My Shoulder. “Also those who have become family to me over the years,” he added. “I hope I have made an impact on some of these kids’ lives like they have on mine.”

When asked what advice he would give to anyone considering volunteering with Angel On My Shoulder or an organization like it, Myles said, “Just do it! Its a decision you won’t regret, and it will bring you so much joy. Angel On My Shoulder has helped sculped me into the person I am today.” 

Family Ties – Chris Brittnacher Profile

For many people who come to know and love Angel On My Shoulder, it’s a family affair. The Brittnachers can be counted among them, having first gotten involved due to a daughter’s illness, then deepened their commitment over the years.

Chris and Don Brittnacher enjoy their life in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, where they raised their three children, Heidi, Anna, and Mollie. Mollie passed away from cancer in 2001.

“We attended Camp Hozhoni in 1997 and 1998,while she was going through treatment,” Chris said. “It was a safe and comfortable way for our family to ‘get away’ while going through chemotherapy.”

Their daughter Heidi has lived in Milwaukee since 2014. Anna and her husband Roman moved back to Kaukauna from Duluth in 2017, and they welcomed their son Rory just this past February.

When asked how they first got involved with Angel On My Shoulder, Chris said, “Heidi and Anna volunteered for camp in 2012. Heidi became more involved with the planning committee in 2013.”

It was through that commitment that Heidi found out they needed another photographer for camp. She asked her father, Don, to step in.

Heidi was given the responsibility of coordinating the family craft event, so Chris helped with that.

“After that first year, I said I would take care of it,” Chris said. “Hozhoni has been the perfect way to use our gifts to honor our sweet girl Mollie! Craft projects were always a good way to pass the time and keep Mollie engaged when she was going through treatment.”

Heidi said Don loves to use his photography skills to capture memories for the campers.

Some of Heidi and Anna’s favorite memories from camp were the “Hozhoni Boogie” and the relationships that all three girls developed with some of the counselors.

“Making those memories with campers is so meaningful to them,” said Chris.

Chris said that local friends who knew Mollie have done numerous things over the years to help with camp projects. “Mixing cement for a hundred stepping stones, building thirty-five birdhouses, growing plants for terrariums, donating beads and artistic talent to my demo, and making ceramic turtles for the terrarium project are a few things that come to mind.”

Chris likes to repurpose and use second-hand materials for the crafts since it’s better for the environment.

“I get help from fellow camp volunteers and other friends in sourcing supplies from thrift stores and rummage sales,” said Chris. “I think volunteering for camp is a wonderful creative outlet and allows our family to honor Mollie, while helping to make camp special and memorable for families.”

Caring with the Angels


Known as Nita, Anita Domnitz and her husband Ric (Merrick), a personal injury lawyer, have been married for forty-six years and have lived in Whitefish Bay for forty-one of them. Nita describes it as a Norman Rockwell neighborhood with its sidewalks, streetlights, parks, lakefront and shopping, all within walking distance.

“We love being close to downtown Milwaukee for theatre, concerts, art museums, fun and fine dining,” Nita said, “and Brewers games!”

They’ve just added a putting green to their backyard. “It’s great fun for our grandchildren and Ric! We have two sons, Ari and Noah, and four beautiful, healthy grandchildren.” 

Nita first got involved with Angel On My Shoulder when she did a workshop with the Rose family and employees of Discover Wisconsin. “Lolly and the family invited me in 1997 to be the first AOMS summer camp nurse and counselor in Three Lakes, WI. It was a fantastic experience to see the joy, fun, freedom and quality of the camp and AOMS.”

In subsequent years, Nita’s son Ari and his friends joined as camp counselors. “One summer, my son Noah was the counselor for the boys who stayed on Noah’s Ark!”

Nita later assisted in developing and counseling at the Teen Camp. 

The first Angel Care was formed in 1999. “Rick Rose knew an AIDS Caregiver facilitator named Sally Fischer who flew in from New York to facilitate,” Nita said. She and her parents were participants. Her beloved brother Jeff passed in 1989 at thirty-seven from metastatic osteosarcoma of the jaw after a seven year remission. “Angel Care with Sally was so healing for the three of us,” Nita said. “My Mother was able to openly express her pain and resentments to group members she’d just met! We all gained insight and tools to help us cope with our sadness.”

Nita told Lolly that with her counseling group therapy experience she could facilitate Angel Care, and soon she was running the group. That was in 2001, and for the next eighteen years Nita facilitated 33 groups that served 418 caregivers. “In 2009 we held a reunion for all the participants who had attended groups up to that point. It was a phenomenal turnout and the caregivers were treated like royalty.”

“My ideas for Angel Care were to encourage creative expression, nonjudgmental acceptance and witnessing, bonding, empathy, respect, comraderie, trust, coping strategies, and wholistic education,” Nita said.

“The Angel Care program was a gift to all who attended and a gift to me. I learned so much from each group. The last few years we allowed some caregivers to repeat the experience if we had room in the groups. It was a privilege that I will cherish forever.” 

Nita also wrote articles for AOMS Magazine. “My early articles focused on the health of the body with regard to nutrition, hydration, sleep, cell development and repair.” Most of Nita’s articles were inspired by clients, personal challenges, healthy new age philosophies, and inspirational people in her life. 

Some of Nita’s fondest memories include experiencing happy, carefree children at camp,  dancing, singing, making tree pictures that became notecards, costume parties, swimming and boating, and teen group emotional sharing. 

“Angel Care gave its participants the experience of bonding between caregivers, sincere and respectful support for one another, and humor as a healing emotion,” Nita said.

Other great memories include the Golf outing award and fundraising dinner, where Ric talked about Nita’s dedication and sincere love of AOMS and Angel Care. “Ari and Noah surprised me at the dinner! They drove from Milwaukee to be with me for my recognition and tribute for Angel Care and drove back the same evening. The best surprise of my life!”

“Volunteering with AOMS is a rewarding endeavor,” Nita said. “Everything AOMS does is done with care, love, quality, and thought. AOMS is quality in every program and fundraiser. AOMS is the real deal!”  


Healing Angels Spring 2019

By Tracy Hengst

Cancer survivors joined together for our June Healing Angels Program Retreat, held at Wilderness Hotel-Wisc Dells!

As with all of our healing angels retreats, participants start out the weekend as strangers – but as the weekend wraps up, they’ve helped each other to get over mountains and across lakes.  We shared experiences, heard about resources, learned new techniques and most importantly, continued in the healing process.

A Life Changer

Support for Angel On My Shoulder comes from far and wide. Currently living in Sarasota, Florida, Austin DeGroot remains committed. The son of Bill and Sue DeGroot, Austin has three sisters, Breanna, Erica, and Amanda.

A recent college graduate with a degree in Business Marketing, Austin loves the Sarasota area “mostly because the weather is nice year round!” He’s also an avid fisherman and he loves saltwater fishing. He’s in the process of starting a business venture with a high school friend he’s known since they were both small boys.

When asked how he first got involved with Angel On My Shoulder, Austin said he was diagnosed with leukemia in January, 2005.

“It was a devastating blow to my family, as all of my siblings have struggled with heart disease for many years prior to my diagnosis,” Austin said. “After being diagnosed, it took away my ability to be a kid and have the normal experiences you should have in your childhood.”

Angel On My Shoulder contacted Austin’s family and made his dream of a childhood possible with camps and by putting the family in touch with people going through the same things.

“They gave me the ability to be a kid and have fun again, which is something I can never be thankful enough for.”

Austin started going to Camp Hozhoni as a camper and was initially reluctant. “I just wanted to go fishing with my father and be distant from other campers and other survivors.”

Austin said his perspective changed when he met counselors Michele Ritt and Brian Kluender. “They showed me that this wasn’t a camp to talk about your feelings. It was a camp that allowed kids who were going through the same thing as I was to go out and have an amazing time together.”

Austin started going to camp in 2006 and has never missed a camp since. “Events such as this changed my life,” he said, “so its only right that I started giving back as a counselor once I turned 18. I wanted to provide that same life changing experience to kids who were just like me.”


One year the camp found itself without a DJ for Hozhoni Boogie. Austin had been singing, with a passion for music, his entire life. He spent the night putting together a playlist for camp and decided to take on the DJ duties himself. “The response I got that night was amazing, and I enjoy dancing with the kids and adults alike! Ever since then it has been my pleasure to be the camp DJ.”

One friendship was especially important to Austin. “Bruce Krier was hands-down one of the single best men I have ever known,” he said. “He inspired me and showed me that no matter what the odds are, and no matter what hand you are dealt, you can overcome anything if you believe in yourself and try your hardest.”

The two met through an event at AOMS where Austin gave a speech and sang a few songs to try and inspire people. One of those people was the late Bruce Krier.

“It must have struck him hard because he approached me with tears in his eyes,” Austin said. “He didn’t say a word and hugged me. From that moment on we hit it off. We became great friends over the years and I am honored to have known him.”

When asked for some of his most vivid memories with AOMS and Camp Hozhoni, Austin said, “The years I have spent at camp Hozhoni and working with AOMS have been the best years of my life. That’s what makes this organization so special. They take kids just like I was and show them that there’s more to life than just chemo and pain. They gave me the will to keep fighting. AOMS has given me an entire new family that will always be there for me. I give them and organizations like them the sole credit for my survival/success. P.S. I love you Lolly Rose!”

Camp Angel

Camp Angel (ages 7-14) was held July 12–14, 2019. An enthusiastic group of over thirty  amazing campers were with us for our summer Camp Angel experience.

Campsite Co-Directors, Dick & Amy Lemke, warmly welcomed this incredible group of young campers and their counselors. A Tree House, Ark, Fort and Tower were the unique weekend lodging for our camper groups: Bunnies, Foxes, Bears and Wolves.

An exciting pirate trip adventure on the Strauss Family’s phenomenal Pirate Ship in Eagle River with Captains Steve and Steve-O Strauss at the helm led off our Saturday activity events. We salute the Strauss’s for providing this one of a kind 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 to embark on our newest activity offering: “Minute to Win It”, a  fun-filled round of game challenges.
A HUGE THANKS to our “fabulous” team of counselors: Alex Graziano, Nikki Graziano, Eric Adelmeyer, Allie Kovach-Erickson, Mason Hageny, Jeremiah Hubing, Carson Kops, Hadley Krus, Eden Liu, Nick Mills, Alayna Perry, Kenzie Pipes and  Sophie Spiess. A heartfelt shout out to Cali Sanborn. . . always part of the Angel Team of Counselors!

We gratefully applaud our Angel volunteer family: Dick & Amy Lemke, Rob & Traci Graziano, Jon & Michelle Perry, Teresa Bey, Laura Roof,  Sue Lemke, Tommy Geraty, Dave Hughes, Lee Hughes, Mary Ryskowkski, Randy Ryskowski, Theresa Ryskowski/Josh, Vincent Ryskowski, Deana & John Bigley, Mary & Otto Schoeneck, Leah Schindeldecker, Amy Skubal,  and the dynamic duo . . . Dove & Shade. Our deepest appreciation to Nancy and Tom Schuller for their always above and beyond help. A special acknowledgment to the entire Camp Luther staff for helping make this a most memorable weekend.

Camp Angel-Winter (ages 7-14) held on January 25-27, 2019 brought us forty-four incredible young campers.

Our campsite Co-Directors, Dick & Amy Lemke welcomed this awesome group of campers. The camper groups (Bunnies, Foxes, Bears and Wolves) and their counselors stayed in cozy north woods cabins in a beautiful winter wonderland setting.

Friday evening was off to a great start with the campers, counselors and camp volunteers gathering around a huge bon fire to get to know each other and play games in a warm and toasty atmosphere of friendship.

Many fun adventures were available all day Saturday including ice fishing, snowmobile rides, ice bowling, sledding, climbing wall and snow shoeing. Face painting, nail painting, hair braiding and games galore were among the indoor activity offerings. A highlight of the day was the opportunity for the campers (counselors too) to select and make warm and cuddly “take home” tie blankets cut and prepared for the campers by our wonderful Angel family member, Suzanne Lemke. Thanks, Suzanne . . . you truly bring smiles and warm hearts.

On Saturday night, Cliff the Magic Man returned again (by popular demand) to mesmerize us with his amazing bag of tricks. Campers and counselors alike took turns joining Cliff on stage to show their skills as “Magician Assistant”. Cliff’s “Magical” performance is always a huge hit and provides entertainment that makes for very “Happy Campers”!

We gratefully salute our phenomenal team of counselors: Alexis Dean, Alli Kovach-Erickson, Emily Kovach-Erickson, Hunter Foster, Marissa Martin, Alayna Perry, Mckenzie Pipes, Casey Ruplinger, Sophie Spiess, Izak Walker and Walker Wendt led by Head Counselors, Myles Lemke and Cali Sanborn.

A huge and heartfelt thanks to our above and beyond Angel volunteer family who make this special weekend everything it was meant to be and more: Dick & Amy Lemke (Campsite Directors), Laura Roof (Camp Nurse), Jon Perry, Jennifer Klingen, Eric Schoeneck, Dave Hughes and Mike Wolf along with the “Wendt Family”-Brian, Kristine and Hunter).

Hats off (and, of course, Helmets on) to our “best of the best” Angel snowmobile team of volunteers: Ozzie Ausloos, Jim Harold, Carla Klein, Penny & Mike McCormick and Jim Rybarczyk for a day of fun and exciting rides for our campers.

A grateful acknowledgement to Camp Manitowish YMCA in Boulder Junction, WI (our winter campsite) and its outstanding staff for helping to make this a memorable weekend for us all.

Life in the Volunteer Lane with Lois Ruediger

by Mark McNease
Originally from the Green Bay area, Lois Ruediger has Wisconsin in her veins. A mother of three sons and grandmother of six, Lois and her husband George have lived in St. Germain since 1990.

They moved north, where Lois started out as the manager for Twin Waters Resort in St. Germain. They then built Fibber’s Restaurant, and the St. Germain Lodge & Resort. Lois ran the establishment for ten years and now owns Business Connection, while George manages an ecommerce business.

Lois’s passion for volunteering began early. She had been a volunteer for Cerebral Palsy Inc in Green Bay for twenty-six years, working on their Annual Telethon and making presentations in schools to recruit volunteers, as well as helping with fundraising efforts. After travelling back and forth, Lois and George decided they wanted to find a local charity in the Northwoods to focus their efforts on. Enter Lolly Rose, who Lois met at an Angel fundraiser in the early 1990s. Lois was struck by Lolly’s passion and drive, and she began looking for ways to help.

Lois and George were friends with Mike Wolf. They were discussing a winter event to bring more people to the area after the Christmas Break, and the Polar Plunge was born. Lois’s sister LuAnn Newton had been diagnosed with breast cancer and been told in 1999 she was cancer free. It was the perfect tribute to her that the Plunge became a reality at their resort, for an organization that reaches out to families affected by cancer.

LuAnn went on to become one of Lolly’s best behind-the-scenes volunteers, working on the Plunge, Camp Angel, and the Uplifting Angels Program, as well as many other things Lolly needed done. In January, 2016, LuAnn was once again diagnosed with cancer and unfortunately lost her life to ovarian cancer. The Polar Plunge became one of Angel’s most successful events because of the team of volunteers who made it happen. The Plunge family have all experienced the devastating effects of cancer through a loved one and that’s the glue that has held them together all these years.

As for the future, Lois and George will have a “snowbird” home in Alabama, near Gulf Shores, where the winters are mild and no one has to shovel snow! They plan to keep their home in St. Germain and share their time between the two, enjoying the best of both worlds.

When asked what she most derives from volunteering, Lois said, “The satisfaction of being able to help others is who I am. In the past, I was involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters and currently I organize the volunteers for the Senior Meal Program in St Germain.”

Lois also organizes a couple of craft shows in St Germain and donates all the proceeds to local youth groups.

Several experiences stand out for Lois over her years of volunteering with Angel On My Shoulder. “Early on I visited one of the Winter Camp Angel sessions,” she said, “and when you see the smiles on the kid’s faces as they enjoy a weekend away from the stresses at home because someone they love is experiencing cancer, that makes it all worthwhile.”

She has witnessed many people who took the Plunge as a tribute to their loved one who passed away from cancer or who may currently be going through treatments.

“The comment you hear most often is ‘Jumping into freezing water for a couple minutes is a small price to pay to help make a difference for someone who is going through this horrible disease.’”

“Once I understood the purpose of each of Angel’s programs and how each one could help in a different way, I realized that all these folks needed was to know they’re not alone and there are resources available to help them get through it.”

For anyone looking to get involved, Lois said, “There’s nothing more satisfying than being able to help people right here in our local area. This organization is operated by volunteers who pour their heart and soul into everything they do to help people affected by cancer and volunteering is a great way to make a difference. Who knows, the life you change may be your own!”

The Seas Part when Moses Huizinga Takes the Plunge

Russ “Moses” Huizinga is a veteran of the Polar Plunge who has never missed a year since its inception. He won an award for the most donations raised, and it’s easy to see why.

He tells his wife Sharon every year “to put the life insurance policy back in the bank,” as he makes it another year.

“I currently live in Minocqua, formally from Franklin Park, Illinois,” Moses said. “I retired from the Teamsters Union 731. I do bobcat work and enjoy restoring old cars.”

Russ restored a 1936 Ford pickup that he named “White Lightening.” He said, “You can see me driving it in the summer and at car shows.”

Moses first heard about Angel On My Shoulder from his friend Doreen at Leisure City. He says that when he learned about the Polar Plunge he just had time to make a donation and get the entry free in to join the plungers.

“When I did my first jump and learned about the organization, I was impressed with all that they do for the children, families and all affected by this terrible disease.”

Moses also loves the children he sees in his volunteering, and he plays Santa Claus whenever he can.

When asked about some of the things he most enjoys from the Polar Plunge and volunteering with Angel On My Shoulder, Moses said, ““The act of getting the pledges, the comradery of everyone who participates.”

“Mike Wolf named me Moses. As he said, ‘Moses divides the sea,’ as all you see is hair, beard and one big splash as I belly flop.”

Moses is inspired by Mike Wolf, along with Amy and Dick Lemke, who he says all love Angel On My Shoulder. “I also love what they do,” he said.

When asked what some of his best memories are from his years with the Polar Plunge, Moses said, “My best memory is when Dick Lemke got on bended knee in front of everyone to ask Amy Linnett to marry him, and of course she said yes!”

He also said he most appreciates his family and friends who support him in this and the friendships he has forged. “God willing I will continue to do this,” he said.

For anyone considering volunteering, Moses said, “I would tell them to ‘just do it,’ The organization is wonderful and rewarding and brings some happiness to the children who suffer from this horrible disease. It is all volunteer.”

Riding With The Angels

Community means everything for Kyle Schmee, who lives in Park Falls, Wisconsin. A Technology Education teacher at Chequamegon High School, Kyle learned the importance of volunteering and giving back at an early age from his mother, Marny, who passed away on February 6, 1998, due to cervical cancer six days before Kyle’s twelfth birthday.

“I’m very well involved with the community doing projects and volunteering with the local Chamber of Commerce and other organizations in town,” Kyle said. “Being a teacher allows me to spend my summers gaining experience and helping to improve the area any way I can.”

Marny was remembered for this same dedication to others. “She once had a craft store where she would provide adult crafting lessons,” said Kyle. “Many times she was up till 2:00 or 3:00 AM making sure a bride and groom had their flower arrangements done in time, and often did it for free.”

Years later, Kyle, an avid bike rider, wanted to do something to commemorate his mother and contribute to others in their situation.

“I thought up the bike ride three years ago while on an icy March winter ride. I was riding a mountain bike I bought in high school with money left behind from my mother,” Kyle said. “I had just scored my first teaching job and was feeling high on life for the first time after five years of college.”

Kyle decided to use his passion for bike riding as a way to raise awareness for Angel On My Shoulder.

“Being in my hometown makes it even more important to help where needed. As an impressionable young kid, you follow those that others talk about. Community members never let me forget who she was and the things she did for this town. I try to focus my energy towards the youth in any way possible. Mom did … so I want to.”

Kyle also serves as an assistant baseball coach for their high school and summer league baseball teams. “When I’m not at work, I’m typically riding my bike since I like to do amateur mountain bike racing,” he said.

When asked how he first became involved with Angel On My Shoulder, Kyle said, “My cousins Shawny and Ben heard about Angel On My Shoulder through their college experience, as they needed to complete community service hours. The ‘need’ quickly became a ‘want’ for both of them and they were involved for numerous years. They were persistent enough that I broke from my busy schedule to give it a whirl and that’s when I fell in love with the camps. So a huge thanks to both of them!” 

Kyle’s original goal was to ride his bike 50 miles out and back in all four directions from Park Falls

“On the map, it’s a perfect ‘PLUS’ sign. MARNY, short for Marlene, was what my family and friends called mom.”

In honor of his mom, he named the ride “Mom’s Angels Ride to Nurture Youth” – MARNY PLUS. “Something my family and I came up with during a family wedding,” he explained.

“I knew if I just started pedaling people would donate. I did some research on what it takes to do 100 miles. It’s not as easy as just getting on the bike and riding. The mental toughness kicked in as I thought about all the people I’ve seen in hospitals and the stories the Angel On My Shoulder campers have told me over the last eight years. All the victims of cancer would love to be doing what I was doing rather than trying to beat cancer. Climbing hills hurts but you forget the pain and focus on the reason you decided to do it in the first place.”

Asked what some of the most memorable things are he’s gotten from doing the ride, Kyle said, “My friend Joe Hall from Glidden, who is in the US Air Force, lost his mother when he was young. He saw the MARNY PLUS advertisements on Facebook and asked me a series of questions, thought the idea was awesome and he said to me, ‘With a family of my own and the schedule I have I could never do what you are doing. How does $5,000 sound for a donation?” $10 dollars makes it worth it. $5,000 makes a grown man cry.”

For anyone considering volunteering, Kyle had this to offer: “Stop thinking about it as I did for two years. Just jump in and do it! Every first year volunteer has an eye opening experience that ‘Puts you on cloud nine for a solid month straight’ (Ben Schmidt).

“Whether you are affected or not by cancer, these kids need someone to help them forget cancer for a moment to realize there is more to life then stewing on all the negative effects that cancer has on all those who are coping with cancer. The kids will never forget and neither will you.”

– Mark McNease