Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association, Inc.

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  • August 14, 2012 6:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Join us at the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association's 2012 reunion banquet on Saturday, September 1st to bid on some fantastic auction items!  Auction proceeds will support the association's Seasonal Staff Scholarship Program.

    Bid Now!  Support the Seasonal Staff Scholarship Program.
    • Mail your bid to SAA Auction, PO Box 428, Ely, MN 55731
    Mail will be collected at 3:00 p.m. Friday, August 31, 2012. Late bids will not be accepted.
    This year's premier auction item is a "Shirt and Skirt Package" (Husband and Wife Package) generously donated by Campbell's Cabins.  The package features 3 full days and 4 nights. Accommodations, meals, 18’ boat, motor, gas, guide, return airfare from Crane Lake, MN.  Must be used in 2013 season.  The value of this package is Valued at $2910.00 CAD.  Download the information flyer.

    Cannot attend the auction?  You can still bid!
    • If you cannot attend the 2012 Rendezvous, you may mail your bid to SAA Auction, PO Box 428, Ely, MN 55731.  Do not include payment.  Include your contact information so you may be notified if you have the winning bid. Mail will be collected at 3:00 p.m. Friday, August 31, 2012. Late bids will not be accepted.

  • June 16, 2012 9:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sailing, snorkeling, fishing and new friends await you in the Florida Keys. The Florida Sea Base and Friends Association (SBAFA) is proud to host the Philmont Staff Association (PSA) and the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association (SAA) for the 2013 Coral Reef Sailing Adventure. This is the second time this Adventure has been hosted by the SBAFA in the Exchange Program of the SBAFA, PSA and SAA.


    During your Adventure, you will sail the Florida Keys in a 40-45 foot sailing vessel and have the opportunity to snorkel and fish some of the most beautiful reefs in the Keys. You’ll also learn navigation, fish identification and coral reef ecology, and hang out with friends, old and new. Except for the last night, you will sleep on your vessel and fall asleep to the rocking of the waves.


    Sailing Adventure Basics


    The Sailing Adventure is February 17 to February 23, 2011. The cost is $6,100 per vessel. There is a minimum of 6 sailors per vessel, maximum 7 sailors per vessel. On a per sailor basis, this means that a six sailor crew would pay $1016.66 per sailor, and a seven sailor crew would pay $871.43 per sailor. Your actual charge will be determined by taking the total cost for the number of vessels required and divided by the total number of sailors. For example, 20 sailors would require 3 vessels and the resulting charge to each sailor would be $915.


    Your fee includes a berth on the vessel, all fishing licenses and gear, on-water food, (fresh -- not trail food!) snorkel gear, on base-lodging and meals, a Coral Reef Sailing Mate on base and a fully qualified captain for your vessel. You are responsible for the limited personal gear required and your transportation to and from the Sea Base in Islamorada, Florida.


    Eligibility requirements

    1. Be a current member of the SBAFA, PSA or SAA or eligible family member.
    2. Be a registered member of the BSA.
    3. Presented a completed medical form.
    4. Pass the basic BSA swim check upon check in – persons not passing the swim check will be required to wear a personal flotation device at all times.
    5. Be 13 years old and have completed 8th grade, or 14 years old, by arrival day – youth participants will be required to present a valid ID showing proof of age.


    Eligible family members are your spouse, child or step-child, sibling, parent, grandparent, grandchild, niece, nephew or in-law who meets the eligibility requirements above.


    Becoming a member of the BSA is straightforward: register at your local Scout office by explaining that BSA membership is a requirement for participation in an event at the Sea Base, pay nominal fees and pass a background check.


    BSA swimming requirements are simple: jump feet first into water over your head, swim 75 yards in a strong manner using a forward stroke, turn over, swim 25 yards using a resting back stroke and then float motionless on your back for one minute.


    The schedule

    • Sunday, February 17 -- Arrive at Sea Base by 10:00 a.m., meet your Coral Reef Sailing Mate and fellow/sister sailors, have lunch in the Sea Base galley, go through swimming re-check, snorkel instruction, food pick-up and crew photos. Set sail from Sea Base before dinner and eat Sunday dinner on your vessel.
    • Monday, February 18 -- Sail the Keys.
    • Tuesday, February 19 – Sail the Keys.
    • Wednesday, February 20 -- rendezvous at Big Munson Island, site of the Sea Base’s Out Island Program, and complete a fun service project and tour the island. The opportunity to visit Big Munson Island is not offered to regular Coral Reef Sailing Adventure participants – just you! Then visit the Brinton Environmental Center for hot showers. Wednesday evening return to your vessel and set sail again.
    • Thursday, February 21 -- Sail the Keys.
    • Friday, February 22 -- Return to Sea Base, participate in a luau, and receive your Sea Base participant’s award. Those persons having earned participation awards at all three BSA High Adventure Bases will receive their Triple Crown Award.  Spend the final night in a Sea Base bunkhouse.
    • Saturday, February 23 – depart Sea Base.


    Deviations from the above schedule are not possible. Persons arriving a day early can sleep at the Sea Base at no charge.

    How to register

    To reserve your slot, you must pay a $100 deposit by November 30, 2012. After November 30th?  Currently there is still space for you to sign-up!  Register and pay your deposit online here. Call the Philmont Staff Association to confirm space at (575) 376-1138.

    Except as set forth below, this deposit is non-refundable, but it is transferable. Immediately after November 30, the number of vessels required will be determined and the final price per sailor calculated. You will be immediately notified of the final price and the balance of the final price must be paid in full by December 10, 2012.  Once paid the balance is not refundable and the purchase of trip interruption/cancellation insurance to protect you against unforeseen cancellation is advised.


    In the event the number of registrants is such that all cannot be accommodated on vessels, sailors will be awarded their slot based on the order in which their registration was received, priority beginning with the first registrant. Sailors who cannot be accommodated will receive a refund of their deposit.


    All registrations will be handled by Randy Saunders, Executive Director of the Philmont Staff Association. To register and get top priority for a slot mail the form below, together with your check in the amount of $100 per sailor payable to the PSA, to Randy at Executive Director, Philmont Staff Association, 17 Deer Run Road, Cimarron, NM 87714.


    Don’t miss out on this – the first Coral Reef Sailing Adventure in 2011 proved to be very popular.


  • June 16, 2012 6:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)



    Butch Diesslin, Lucy Diesslin, Dave Hyink, and Steff Hyink are organizing a 10-day Eastern Caribbean Cruise, February 5-15, 2013.  They are recruiting more people to join them on their voyage! 

    If enough sign-up the group will qualify for the associated cruise line “Group Discount”.  Any group discount from the cruise line will be donated to the SAA Seasonal Staff Scholarship Program, with each member of the group receiving a pro-rated charitable donation receipt.


    Group members must register through same travel agent so the group designation shows up for the customer on their cruise line’s reservation.



  • May 15, 2012 2:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Join us for a Webinar Rendezvous on Wednesday, May 30th at 7:30 p.m. CDT when we will present the basics of the 2012 Canoe Voyage and explore the route from Atikokan, Ontario to Ely, MN.


    The Webinar undefined a real time presentation using your phone and computer undefined will provide you with more information about the Voyage and allow you to ask questions. The presentation will provide a brief overview of the trip including schedule, equipment needed, and will take participants on a virtual trip with photos of the trip route. The presentation will be made by Alex Nepple, former Northern Tier Interpreter, and veteran of the Atikokan to Ely route.


    RSVP in advance at for the Webinar by Monday, May 28th.  Participants will need a phone to call into the conference call and a computer with Internet connection.  Further Webinar information will be provided to participants after registration.


    More information about the voyage is available here.

  • May 07, 2012 11:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Alumni Work Week:  May 28-June 9

    This is your chance for some sweat equity and camaraderie with your fellow alumni members and current staff, and to make your mark on this priceless asset, Northern Tier. This year promises to be the largest ever, with 240 seasonal staff hired, and the Sandy Bridges Program Center in operation.

    “Work Week” is May 28 to June 9.  We can use help for a day or a week, so come as early and stay as late as you can! Bring your skills and enthusiasm; we will provide on-the-job training.   The work will involve continued  restoration of the Lodge building. This large project is intended to preserve and enhance the Lodge as a museum and interpretive center for the base. The completion of this project is in sight!

    Meals and accommodations on the base will be provided at no cost. You will have the added bonus of participation in training week activities as your interest and time permit. On June 9, we are planning a volunteer alumni dinner.  Consider contacting your fellow alumni to participate with you and make your own reunion part of the fun.

    • Arrange your Work Week participation in advance with Dick Shank.
    • Be a member in good standing of the SAA.  Join online at
    We hope to hear from you!  For more information and to arrange to participate contact Dick Shank.

  • January 04, 2012 9:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Friends of Larry Whitmore,


    Larry Whitmore passed away on January 1, 2012. He had been battling cancer for several years. My remembrances of Larry will not be about his health issues, but rather the unique person who was my good friend and colleague.


    On Thursday, January 5, 2012, there will be a visitation with family at 5 pm and a "celebration of life" remembrance service at 7pm held at the Heritage Funeral Home in Sioux Falls, SD.


    Many of Larry's friends are geographically spread out, so we expect many will want to "stand up and say something" from a distance. Please leave your thoughts and memories about Larry by adding your comments on the bottom of the page or on the Obituary page (Adobe Flash required).


    As near as I can figure, we met over 45 years ago, when we were both Boy Scouts in the Sioux Council Order of the Arrow ceremonial team.  The Order of the Arrow is a brotherhood of honor campers in Scouting, and as the ceremonial team, we took our duties seriously. We wore special buckskin Indian garb, carefully memorized our lines, including lots of Indian words that we probably butchered in their pronunciation.  We conducted a nighttime ceremony where we "tapped out" new honor campers after paddling into camp at the shore of a lake, skillfully lighting a campfire with a flaming arrow.  All of this had been carefully rehearsed to maximize the impact of the solemn ceremony. Larry and I shared a respect and reverence for Indian ways, and I suspect our feelings go back to our time in the OA.


    Also as Scouts, Larry and I spent time together on a wilderness canoe trip through the Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base near Ely, MN. It was a great experience. We both ended up getting jobs there the next year, first getting trained and then working as wilderness guides. Each subsequent summer, we took 5 or 6 Scout crews into the woods for ten days at a time, paddling hundreds of miles, portaging between lakes, and "delivering the Wilderness Experience". In between trips to the woods, Larry would play his guitar, usually drawing a crowd around his locker in the guide's quarters. Some of his songs were folk songs, some were songs of the day - some of my favorites were written by Bob Dylan - and some of Larry's songs he had written himself.


    Larry guided canoe trips at the Sommers Canoe Base for seven years, much longer than most guides who might last a year or two - maybe three or four at the most. Larry generally got excellent reviews from his crews - his trips were always an adventure, and that's what they came up to the Base for. Remarkably, he also got excellent reviews from his adult advisors - who weren't always there for an adventure in the woods - many were just there following up on their commitment to the boys - and Larry somehow got them into the spirit of the wilderness treks - thus earning their respect and admiration.


    Larry had lots of friends in the days he was guiding - and why not? He was an adventurous voyageur among fellow voyageurs. ...someone to look up to hang out with aspire to be like... and he could sing and play guitar and tell stories all night long.


    After our days guiding, I sort of lost track of Larry for a few years, even though were were both within a few miles of Sioux Falls. We were busy working our jobs and raising our families. We did hunt together once in awhile. My God, could that man shoot a shotgun. I understand he was a champion trap shooter. One of my favorite stories is how he got to be a "hired gun" for some of the ranchers who hosted goose hunts out on the Missouri River. Everybody paid the rancher for the experience of hunting in the "pits" based on how many geese they brought home. Larry's job would be to take the end pit, patiently waiting for everyone else take their shots, and then make sure that none of the honkers got past him. For his trouble, Larry's fee's were generally waived. I think they had his phone number on speed dial for the times when they expected a hunting party with questionable shooting skills.


    Years later, Larry began to develop a series of health problems that seemed to consume his energy and change his spirit of optimism and adventure. For those of us who knew him in the good old days, he always seemed to have time for us - to laugh and sing and recall tall tales and great memories. I think it became harder and harder to change gears and be the Larry that we grew up with. The crowning blow may have been when his fingers became so numb that he couldn't play guitar.


    I believe Larry is playing his guitar again now, singing, and sharing stories with his friends. In my mind, I can picture his spirit enjoying some of the many places he visited, bringing in some pheasants or catching some fish for supper. He was my great friend, and I will always remember the times we spent together.


    Dave Greenlee


  • November 23, 2011 7:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The SAA announces this year's recipients of the Northern Tier Seasonal Staff Scholarship Program.  The program provides qualified individuals with post-secondary assistance of a total up to $3,000. Recipients must exhibit both academic competence and exemplary ongoing service to youth.

    The 2011 Northern Tier Seasonal Staff Scholarship Program recipients are:
    • Erin Beaton
    • Tim Botranger
    • Collin Cooper (Christopher D. Breen Memorial Scholarship)
    • Mark Dierauer
    • Paul Docimo 
    • Jacob Dowling (Terry J. Wall Charles Sommers Scholarship)
    • Gail Ferguson
    • Matthew Hall
    • Robert Hinrichs
    • Adel Huemiller
    • Erik Huemiller (Cliff Hanson Scholarship)
    • Erik Keeler
    • Seth Marple (Dave Hyink Scholarship)
    • Corynne McCathie
    • Matthew McGonegle
    • Adam Neuman
    • Scott Page
    • Bryan Patterson (Erickson Memorial Scholarship)
    • Trevor Santy
    • Ryan Sievert (Butch Diesslin Scholarship)
    Congratulations to this year's recipients! Learn more about the scholarship program at:
  • August 17, 2011 7:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Read Summer/Fall 2011 edition of the Reflections Newsletter online to learn all about what is occurring.
  • July 25, 2011 8:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    On Saturday, August 27, 2011, the new Program Center will be formally dedicated in memory of Clyde S. "Sandy" Bridges, visionary General Manager and Base Director. 

    You are invited, as a member, friend, and supporter of the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association, Inc. and Northern Tier High Adventure Program, BSA, to gather at Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base on the shores of Moose Lake, and join Cherie Sawinski and members of Sandy's family, together with dignitaries and guests from the Boy Scouts of America and the Ely community to dedicate the Sandy Bridges Program Center.

    The dedication will commence at 10:00 a.m.  There will be a brief reception, program and dedication ceremony, followed by tours that will wrap up the festivities at 2:00 p.m. Lunch will be served, so please R.S.V.P. by Friday, August 19thTo R.S.V.P., please contact Karen Berg.
  • July 25, 2011 6:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Exchange Program Goes International

    The Exchange Program of the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association, Philmont Staff Association, and the Sea Base Friends and Alumni Association is pleased to announce the first-ever Exchange Program event to take place outside the United States.

    The 2012 Alumni Wilderness Voyage – August 22 to September 1 -- is an exciting 9 day, 8 nights-on-the water paddling adventure where you will be able to experience the extremely remote interior of the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. This is a place where few others travel.  

    Voyageurs will begin their voyage near Atikokan, Ontario where the Northern Tier’s Donald Rogert Canoe Base is located, and will paddle in Canadian waters until the end of the trip when they cross the international boundary and finish the trip at the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base near Ely, Minnesota.  The voyage offers various routes ranging from easy to strenuous with lengths between 80 to 95 miles.  Voyageurs that complete the trip will be awarded a participant’s patch from both the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base and the Donald Rogert Canoe Base – what could be a better deal?
    Voyageurs will arrive Wednesday evening, August 22 (5 p.m.) at the Northern Tier’s Charles L. Sommers Wilderness Canoe Base for dinner.  After dinner voyageurs will begin outfitting and route planning and will spend the night at the base.  The next day at 6:30 a.m. voyageurs will depart by shuttle to the Donald Rogert Canoe Base in Atikokan.  Participants will enjoy a brief tour and lunch at the base. 

    The voyageurs will then proceed to Nym Lake to begin their voyage. The voyageurs will spend the next 9 days and 8 nights (Thursday to the following Friday) exploring the wilderness and solitude of the Quetico – a place where wolves, bears, moose and bald eagles abound. (The fishing is rumored to be good, too.) On Friday, August 31 the voyageurs will arrive back at the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base.  Upon arrival, the voyageurs will be greeted by the beginning festivities of the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association’s “Rendezvous” reunion.  After breakfast on Saturday voyageurs have the option to stay for the Rendezvous weekend or head home.

    Voyageurs will be responsible for:

    • Participation fee.  Includes Northern Tier program and Quetico Provincial Park camping fees.
    • Passport Book or Card.  It is very important you apply well in advance.
    • Personal gear.  After you register a packing list will be provided.  Northern Tier provides most items including tents and stoves.
    • Crew gear.  Individuals will be asked to contribute a few items the crew must provide (first aid kit, etc).
    • Transportation to and from Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base (Ely, Minnesota).  As it takes about 5-6 hours to drive from the Minneapolis airport to the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base, voyageurs should plan flights which land no later than 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 22. It is even suggested that voyageurs travel to Minneapolis on Tuesday night. On-time arrival by 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Charles L. Sommers Base is very important. Car pooling will be organized to assist voyageurs in getting from Minneapolis to the base.  Hotels are available near the airport and downtown, which is easily accessible by light rail.


    • Wednesday, August 22 – Arrive at Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base (Ely, Minnesota) by 5 p.m.  Dinner, outfitting, sauna and a good night’s sleep.
    • Thursday, August 23 – Depart by shuttle at 6:30 a.m. to Atikokan, Ontario.  Tour Donald Rogert Canoe Base, eat lunch, check-in, and begin voyage on Nym Lake.
    • Thursday to following Friday – Paddle the Quetico Provincial Park.
    • Friday, August 31 – Arrive back at Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base on Moose Lake. Another sauna.
    • Saturday, September 1 – Breakfast.  Stay for the weekend reunion or head home.


    As this voyage is longer than previous voyages – and in the Quetico – the cost is higher than past voyages.  The adult participant fee includes $139 in Canadian fees; the youth fee includes $75 in Canadian fees. 

    The total fees are $750 per person for adults, $686 for youth under 18 for the full duration of the trip. The deposit fee to reserve your spot is $250 with the full amount due by the registration deadline of July 1, 2012.  We'll accept registrations after July 1st if there is space available.
    The fee includes the shuttle to Atikokan, trail food, canoes, paddles, most crew gear and a Northern Tier Interpreter.


    • Primary participant must be a member in good standing of the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association at the time of registration and participation.
    • All participants must be current registered members of the Boy Scouts of America.  Contact the association if you have questions regarding this.
    • All participants upon arrival must provide a completed Northern Tier medical form that has been approved and signed by their medical provider.  Participants must be in good physical shame and  meet Northern Tier weight requirements.
    • All participants must be at least 13 years old by December 31st, 2012.
    • Have a valid Passport Book or Card and permitted to enter the country of Canada.
    • Before arriving pass a “BSA Swim Test” as a “Swimmer” and provide a Northern Tier swimming certification form signed by a Lifeguard or other qualified individual. Non-swimmers are not allowed.
    The swimming requirements are simple: jump feet first into water over your head, swim 75 yards in a strong manner using a forward stroke, turn over, swim 25 yards using a resting back stroke and then float motionless on your back for one minute.

    Prior canoeing experience is not required, but it is helpful. If you do not have canoeing experience, pick up and carefully read (several times) the Canoeing Merit Badge book.

    Voyage-eligible family members are your spouse, child or step child, sibling, parent, grandparent, grandchild, niece, nephew or in-law who meets the eligibility requirements above.


    Registration cut-off is July 1, 2012We'll accept registrations after July 1st if there is space available. It is very important that you apply for your passport well before the refund deadline so you know if there are any issues.  There are no refunds after the deadline even if you are not able to attain a Passport or are denied entry into Canada.

    Questions about the Voyage?

    Contact the Charles L. Sommers Alumni Association.

    Triple Crown of High Adventure Award:

    Upon completion of your voyage, you will be one step closer towards the Triple Crown Award, the award given to those who have earned participant’s awards at all three of the BSA High Adventure Bases: Northern Tier, Philmont, and Sea Base.


    • Cancellations prior to the registration deadline of July 1, 2012 will receive a full refund.
    • Cancellation after the registration deadlines will not receive a refund. Monies paid can be used for another SAA or Exchange Program event (prior to the end of 2013) or can be contributed to the General Fund.
    • In exceptional cases – which do not include lack of a passport or denied entry into Canada – Executive Committee can authorize full refunds for cancellation after the registration deadline.
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