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Paths to Discovery
Campaign Members


John Collins

John has lived with his wife Anne on the Western edge of the park since 1976. He's wandered through most of it over the years on foot, snowshoes, or skis. He knows a lot of cool off-trail spots. His two children also enjoyed the park growing up, sometimes spending whole days off in the woods with their friends. John served on the Hudson School Board in the 1980s, and worked as an engineer at 3M for many years before moving to the University of Minnesota where he taught Computer Science for 13 years. At home he enjoys gardening and woodworking. His focus is on education for children and for all park visitors, and he is always looking for better ways to get the buckthorn invasion under control.

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Jessie Diggins, Honorary Chair

Jessie Diggins grew up in Afton, MN, where she learned to love the outdoors.  Jessie began skiing in the MN Youth Ski League group at Willow River State Park at age four.  After graduating from Stillwater High School, Jessie won her first senior National Championship and the opportunity to race at World Championships in Olso, Norway.  Her results earned her an offer to join the US Ski Team, and Jessie became a professional ski racer at age 19.  Jessie and teammate Kikkan Randall paired up to win the first World Cup gold medal for the US in the team sprint event in Quebec City in 2012.  They went on to win the first World Championships gold medal, and the the first Olympic Gold medal, for the US in this same event.  Jessie currently holds the most World Championship medals of any US Cross Country ski racer in history, with 4 total medals; two individual and two in the team sprint event.  Jessie has been ranked in the top ten women's cross country ski racers in the world for the past four years, and hold numerous World Cup podiums.  Jessie is also active in supporting efforts to fight climate change, and in promoting opportunities for youth to enjoy outdoors activity.


Sally Giese

Honorary Chair


Allen Omernik

Allen Omernik is the Vice President of Commercial Banking at MidWestOne Bank in Hudson.


Judith Remington

Judith Remington is a retired attorney. She practiced law in New Richmond, Wisconsin for over forty years. She and her husband, Jim, are founding members of Remington Law Offices, LLC. She specialized in estate planning, probate, trust and elder law. She has four children and seven grandchildren. Judy and her entire family have greatly enjoyed spending time at Willow River State Park. They enjoy hiking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, swimming, picnicking and general outdoor activities in the park.

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Tim Sass

Tim Sass is the branch manager of the Royal Credit Union in New Richmond, WI. Tim grew up in Hudson and graduated from Hudson High School. His family has always felt at home in the outdoors and grew up camping in Willow River, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and many National Parks such as Glacier and Banff. Tim learned how to set up a tent in Willow River and his family would come down to the beach every week and swim, hike and bike the trails. Tim’s family enjoys going to Willow River to cross country ski and snow shoe in the winter and true tent camping in the warmer months. Tim has served on several non-profit boards in MN and ND. If you can’t find him in the woods or on the water, you can find him year-round at a hockey rink with his son.

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Nick Schmit

Nick Schmit joined the Friends board in 2015 and serves on the Facilities Committee.  He and his wife Karen have lived in the community overlooking Little Falls Lake since 1980.  He retired from 3M (Health Care sales and marketing management) and he and Karen have been volunteering with the Friends group activities including the nature center for the past few years.

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Rita Thofern

Rita is retired from the St. Paul Public Schools where her final assignment was as principal of Battle Creek Environmental Magnet School, a fine fit with her longstanding engagement with the environment and all things out of doors. At the parks Rita became involved in ski trail grooming many years ago, and her involvement with the Friends has expanded to a wide range of other volunteer activities. These include hiring and supervising the paid staff members, grant writing, overseeing nature center operation, assuring winter offerings for the public, including snowshoeing sessions and the annual candlelight ski, and serving on the committee that coordinates the Willow River Trail Challenge, the Friends’ primary fundraising event.

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