Bayfield Family Getaway — Angel Wings Embrace

The year 2020 was challenging for everyone in different ways, but for Felecia it was the start of her cancer journey. As a single mother with two young children, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2020, right at the start of the pandemic.

Felecia and her family were “Embraced” by Angel Wings through a greatly needed bonding weekend. She told us that COVID had prevented her from being able to plan a getaway retreat to spend quality time with her young children before undergoing major surgery.

She said that although she could never take the fear from her kids after a long scary year of complications with more treatments scheduled, she was hoping to spend time with her family to relax and make new memories.

Angel Wings “Embrace” was pleased to provide this family with their desired location retreat in Bayfield County for this purpose. Felecia was very grateful for the help and support from AOMS and their generous donors. It was exactly what the family had been looking for and needed at this stage in their cancer journey.


A Trip To The Zoo — Angel Embrace

The Suchla family loves the zoo; Dad Brian specifically loved giraffes. They were planning a family trip to the zoo when Brian passed away.


Angel Wings Embrace was able to provide a fun-filled day at the Milwaukee County Zoo for the Suchla family, continuing a family tradition they had with their father.


They started off their experience with a 2-night stay at the Brookfield Sonesta hotel. Their day at the zoo began with a parking pass and zoo admission for Pam, her son and daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren. The Suchla family received a private meet-and-greet and photo-op with the sea lion and seal stars of the Ocean Connections show!


Angel Wings Embrace also provided the family with tickets to the zoo’s train, carousel, sky glider, a special Lego exhibit, zoo mobile tour, topping off the day with the family getting a chance to feed the giraffes! The Suchla family was given a gift certificate for food and treats throughout the day along with a trip to the gift shop! They also received adorable matching t-shirts with a giraffe coming out of the breast pocket. Pam’s three grandchildren Blake, Easton and Brynlee received cuddly giraffe stuffed animals. The adults were given colorful giraffe keychains.


It is always an honor to serve families like the Suchla’s, and we are happy to have been able to provide a fun and memorable family outing for them.

Lighthouse Family Retreat — Angel Enhance


Angel Wings Enhance granted “enhanced” support to the wonderful Won Family (Mike, Anne, Ella Joy & Asaph) to help make their Lighthouse Family Retreat mission, created to strengthen families living through childhood cancer, a reality.


“We are extremely thankful for the privilege to serve a family with a child recently battling cancer. We had been praying every day for the family even before we met them. We called it Christmas Day because it was so exciting to finally get to meet them.


One night we celebrated unbirthday because many cancer kids do not get to celebrate their birthdays because they are getting Chemo treatment in the hospital. We ate pizza, ice cream, danced and played games. We watched the kids as the retreat family parents went out to dinner for a “date night” and also when the Mom’s went out for a special lunch. We got an opportunity to have a night of praise on the beach with the retreat families which was truly a blessing and special. We had a special dinner on the beach the last night.


It was a privilege to get to serve this family. We made hope jars full of encouraging messages and Bible verses for each family member. We will continue praying for our retreat family, it is about our hearts really wanting to serve and love them. Thank you for this opportunity to allow us to serve this family!” ~Anne Won


Rubber Duck “Give Back” Mission — Angel Enhance



Angel Wings granted “Enhanced” support to the Bordignon Family to fulfill their Rubber Duck “Give Back” Mission. We had received this request from a recipient of one of our AOMS ducks last summer that were caringly dropped from a bridge to those below by Board members and volunteers as an outreach mission to create awareness and support of Angel On My Shoulder. Angel Wings Enhance provided AOMS Rubber Ducks to this caring family so they could “give back” and honor their loved one in this very meaningful and special way.


Message from the DiFranco and Bordignon families:


“Last year, while vacationing in Minocqua, there was a family dropping down rubber ducks from the Bearskin Bridge. The ducks had “Angel On My Shoulder” printed on them. We too lost someone very special to cancer in 2020 and thought it would be great to do the same from the bridge when we go back to Minocqua this summer.


On Aug 1, 2021 the DiFranco and Bordignon families walked out to a bridge overlooking beautiful Lake Minocqua and dropped several rubber ducks into boats, spreading the message of “Angel on my Shoulder” charity.


We did this one year and two weeks after the loss of our dear brother, son, father, grandpa, husband and uncle, Dr. Charles DiFranco who passed away from complications from a brain tumor. Chuck was an incredible mentor to everyone, always giving of himself selflessly.


Chuck was a Periodontist who took incredible care of his patients for almost 40 years. He was married to Kim, father to three sons and grandfather to seven. He loved being on the water and would have loved seeing our family, all together sharing his memory on that bridge. We felt him in spirit for sure and it was a tremendous healing experience for the entire family.


A huge thank you to Nancy for helping us coordinate this day. We worked on it for a long time.


Love, The DiFranco and Bordignon families.”

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.