Click here to read about the Newsmaker of the Year.
Here are the other top newsmakers of 2011, as chosen by the Star News staff.
Rogers woman wins Kemps flavor contest
Jennifer Folkens of Rogers won a contest for a new Kemps ice cream flavor in September. More than 300 flavors were entered.
Folkens’ Land of 10,000 Licks is sweet cream ice cream with swirls of caramel, bits of toffee and sea salt sprinkled throughout.
She won $2,500 and a year’s supply of the ice cream, which will appear on store shelves in 2012. Her name and ice cream story also will be on the packaging.
Bjorkman bicycled 3,296 miles for cause
Kelsey Bjorkman was one of several bicyclists to complete a 3,296-mile trip. The group was featured outside the American Eagle store in New York City’s Times Square as they were on the last leg of the tour. The eight-week trek started in Seattle and ended on a beach at the Atlantic Ocean. The goal was to raise awareness about human trafficking around the world.
James Rienstra went ‘Pedaling for Pennies’
James Rienstra cycled from Zimmerman, Minn. to Anchorage, Alaska, ending his 75-day adventure having exceeded his goal of raising $10,000 for cancer research funding.
“Pedaling for Pennies” covered almost 3,000 miles and garnered more than $16,000 in donations in honor of Rienstra’s father, Wally Rienstra, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2005.
“Life is not about being secure, stable and content,” Rienstra said about his journey. “Life is about the unknown. It’s about chaos, vulnerability and being open-minded. When we are ready to surrender and use our talents and strength in life, that’s when God calls on us.”
Prosser helped Wild during exciting stint
Elk River native Nate Prosser played 14 games with the Minnesota Wild after getting called up from the minors.
The 25-year-old defenseman had four assists and a plus-minus ratio of zero. The Wild were 10-4 during his tenure.
He was sent back down to play for the Houston Aeros, but was recently called back up to the Wild.
Deputy Schreder won Deputy of Year honor
Sherburne County Deputy Roxanne Schreder was named “Deputy of the Year” by the Minnesota Crime Prevention Association.
Through four years with the county, Schreder’s crime prevention work has brought her into contact with everyone from preschool-aged children to area great-grandparents.
Starting in the spring of 2009, Sherburne County introduced a K.I.D.S. Choice program (Kindness, Intelligence, Decency and Safety) for which Schreder wrote the curriculum.
As part of Schreder’s work with the S.A.L.T. (Seniors And Law Enforcement Together) advisory council, she arranges guest home safety presentations for an annual spring Senior Day Out for elder residents.
One of Schreder’s more recent projects has involved seniors of a different sort, as she has brought the sheriff’s office, the county attorney’s office, the Elk River Police Department and Elk River High School together to instill leadership in a select group of 12th-graders at the school for the benefit of all students.
Sen. Amy Koch made history only to resign
Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, made history in 2011 when she became the first woman to become the senate majority leader.
Her high profile position as a negotiator for the Senate came to a halt when information about an inappropriate relationship with a male staffer surfaced and she resigned from her leadership post.
She was replaced by David Senjem, R-Rochester.
Horse owners have more success at Canterbury Park
Bill Ulwelling and his son, Al Ulwelling, both of Elk River, were the leading owners in total victories at Canterbury Park for the second consecutive year.
Their best horse, Stachys, was Canterbury Park’s horse of the year in 2010 and continued to shine in other states this year while running just once at Shakopee, winning a stakes race.
Al and Bill own A & B Welding and Construction, a Nowthen-based firm that does a wide variety of building and repair in five states.
Cunningham’s help at Ground Zero surfaced
Elk River Fire Chief John Cunningham, a Greenwich, Conn. native who grew up just 35 miles as the crow flies from the Twin Towers, was called to work at Ground Zero on Sept. 16, 2001.
It’s something he has kept quiet over the years, until the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
He shared with the public the friendships that formed while digging through the rubble and about the importance of never forgetting the continued sacrifices being made because the attacks.
Touchette recognized for Y leadership
Ron Touchette of Elk River was named the YMCA of Metropolitan Minneapolis Board of Directors Outstanding Volunteer Leader for 2011.
Touchette was instrumental in bringing the YMCA to Elk River, and he currently serves on the General Board of Directors at YMCA of Metropolitan Minneapolis and on the Elk River YMCA Community Board of Directors.
He was also the chair of the Elk River Economic Development Authority until recently. On that, he was a champion of the city’s branding process to give the city an identity and tell people about Elk River.
Touchette is the broker and CEO of Rock Solid Companies, a commercial real estate brokerage firm.
Two Mikes step in to help Legion’s plight
A sheriff’s sale planned for the Elk River American Legion was called off after Friends of the Elk River American Legion came through with more $3,700 to halt the sale.
The Sons of the American Legion (SAL) started it off in grand fashion with a $1,500 contribution, and the American Legion Auxiliary matched that amount. What’s more, members of the Legion and other patrons of the popular community hub came forward with checks and a mixture of crisp and crinkled bills of varying values.
“That’s the community,” said Mike Beyer, the second vice commander of the Legion. “There’s a lot of good people here, and this place is important to the community.”
Beyer and Mike Leistico agreed to work on opening up lines of communication with The Bank of Elk River, and they committed to developing a game plan on paper for moving forward.
“We need a business plan put together by businessmen,” said Leistico, a member of the SAL.
Two more Iwo Jima veterans surfaced
Marshall Harris decided after 65 years of holding it in to make the public aware of his involvement on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II, and two more became widely known this past year.
Bill Konop, a runner for the Navy Seabees during the invasion at Iwo Jima, survived what has been dubbed “Black Hell” by the 133rd Naval Construction Battalion. He made somewhere between three to five runs to carry messages to platoon soldiers. The only one he vividly remembers is his last, which he talked about at a WWII History Series Event by District 728 Community Education.
As for the other veteran of Iwo, it was only death that would cause his story to publicly surface. Wesley H. Claire died at the age of 89. He is believed to have carried one of the famous flags that was raised at the top of Mount Suribachi when Americans claimed victory in the securing of the small but critical strip of land needed to win the war.