Like they always say, all good (and bad!) ideas start on a bar stool. Well, A Week of Hope can officially be added to that (good) list. I remember sitting in the crowd at a tourism conference listening to Samantha Brown from the Travel Channel talking about the importance of travel to kids. It reminded me of how my Dad always jokes that at Flathead Lake Lodge we “take care of the kids and just deal with the adults.” Not true, but kinda…
So how, after 75 years can you possibly say thank you to all those who have helped? From the neighbors, the Bigfork community, our staff, our guests, family members, vendors, local kids who just wanted to trade barn chores to learn to ride horses and on and on and on. For over 75 years it has taken so many people to help make Flathead Lake Lodge what it is today.
Our goal was that A Week of Hope could be our thank you. Our way of giving kids and their families who need it most a chance to experience Flathead Lake Lodge. What I don’t think we were prepared for is how much this week gave us.
75 years ago my Grandpa Les started this place with a strong back, ingenuity and above all else a way of treating people that 75 years later— built on being genuine, kind, authentic, selfless and fun—hasn’t gone out of style. In a time where everyone seems caught up in what is wrong with each other and overwhelmed with negatively, Grandpa Les’s way of life stands strong at Flathead Lake Lodge.
This week, during A Week of Hope, in the middle of a pandemic, we hosted 20 families from across the country who have critically or terminally ill children. We had fun, we laughed, we adventured, we cried, we built relationships and we made memories. We leaned into what Flathead Lake Lodge stands for and I can honestly say the humanity of this last week at the ranch might have been the most special things we have ever done in 75 years.
There are so many thank yous that need to be mentioned for making this happen that I doubt I will remember them all, but I’m going to try. First and foremost to the families. Your enthusiasm, openness and determination is something every person should learn from. To our staff who went above and beyond to make this a week to remember in so many ways. To our vendors who donated trips, time and experiences that were amazing. To our volunteers and locals who helped babysit, donated golf carts and more. To all the donors who helped make this week happen. And lastly to our great partners, Hope Kids and Montana Children’s Hospital. Day in and day out they are doing great work; thank you for letting us talk you into letting this experience happen.
After being knocked down by numerous strokes, Grandpa Les re-learned how to write and in shaky, hard to read writing, when he could barely talk anymore, penned this:
To My Grandchildren,
May you rise up to meet any challenge, live to your fullest potential, fly high, be reverent, honest and trustworthy. Be remembered for being loyal, helpful, courteous and kind to all you meet. Remain cheerful and fun to be with.
Lester W. Averill
It was an amazing 75th season, capped by the most memorable week of them all. I know Grandpa Les would be proud.