2022 marks the third year we’ve had the privilege of hosting a Week of Hope at Flathead Lake Lodge in partnership with HopeKids. Originally started for our 75th anniversary, Week of Hope has now become an annual event that we look forward to each year as we welcome critically ill children and their families to the ranch to life in Montana and make memories. (To learn more, you can read our posts from 2020 and 2021.) In the middle of the hustle and bustle of life, Week of Hope reminds us to stop, slow down and appreciate every moment.
For Week of Hope 2022, we welcomed 19 families from across the United States. And we had many of the same feelings we’ve had in the past – during Week of Hope, it’s almost as if nothing else matters or exists except making sure that the kids and their families are welcomed and loved, while being able to relax, bond, have memorable moments and leave the ranch with incredible family memories.
It’s hard to put into eloquent words what a Week of Hope means to us, and what we hope it means to the families. So instead of stumbling along and trying to share our perspective of the kind of feelings and bonds that come from a week like this, we wanted you to hear it from some of our families.
“Evan LOST everything along with Carter and the rest of us. Football was gone. High school was gone. He missed out on every dance, activity and social aspect of his young life while protecting his little brother. He’d do it again a thousand times over, for Carter. This past week, I saw the light come back into his eyes for the first time in a long time. I saw his passion and his spark to start living again, without constant fear. I saw Evan just able to be Evan again. A gift that we received that could never be replaced. My mama heart is melting. Can’t wait to watch this guy’s future soar.” -Kiana
“Being around other families who have similar challenges and being able to share our stories, fears, and hopes with each other has been such an empowering experience during Week of Hope. It was truly beautiful watching the children come together. I will forever cherish the memories made here and the people we met.” -Daisy
To our Week of Hope families, thank you for trusting us and allowing us to be part of this experience. To our staff and volunteers, thank you for everything you gave to this week (and everything you give to the world every day). And to our donors, thank you for giving the gift of hope and the role you play in bringing this week to life.
It was an honor, a privilege and a blessing to spend a Week of Hope with you.
-Chase and the Flathead Lake Lodge family
If you’ve been a guest of the lodge, chances are you’re familiar with our mouse races (and have maybe even made a friendly bet or two). A much-loved tradition during our family season, mouse races have our local ranch mice going head to head in lanes as they race to the finish line to see who will win that week’s race.
To complement our mouse races and help raise money to bring a Week of Hope to life, in 2021 we launched a new contest called “Mouse of the Year,” where our competitors – including Fievel, Mouserella, Boba Feta, Julius Cheeser and Bugsy – competed to raise money through an online voting system, with all funds going to help cover the costs of Week of Hope, where we host critically ill children and their families at the ranch. After weeks of competition, Fievel raised $2,285 and was named Flathead Lake Lodge’s 2021 Mouse of the Year.
And while we love Fievel for lots of reasons, here’s more about him…
Much like his great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather in 1885, Fievel came West in search of a place with more room to roam and space to explore. He hitched a ride as a stowaway on the Nor’Easter, one of Flathead Lake Lodge’s 51-foot Q-class racing sloops, and has been here ever since. He lives a quiet life and spends much of his time tidying up the boat barn, helping Chef Rob weed the herb gardens and has even been known to help Captain Scott with boat maintenance. With steady legs on land and sea, Fievel just may be the mouse to beat.
From all of us at Flathead Lake Lodge, congratulations on becoming Mouse of the Year 2021 and thank you all for helping Fievel raise $2,285 for Week of Hope!
Looking ahead to 2022, we’re going to continue our Mouse of the Year contest, with all proceeds going directly to a Week of Hope.
Our 2022 competitors include:
1. Fievel, our returning champion.
2. Julius Cheeser. Don’t confuse him with the mouse who has a salad named after him…that’s his biggest pet peeve and that guy didn’t single-pawedly build the Bigfork Empire. Grab your bowl of white cheddar popcorn because his story is one of tragedy, but he doesn’t know that yet. There are whispers of conspiracy amongst the Bigfork Mouse-ators to end Cheeser’s life. He’s participating in the Mouse Race to bring honor to Bigfork and prove his power over the Empire. Given the magnitude of the race, some believe he is focusing on the wrong things and it will ultimately be his downfall, akin to fiddling while Bigfork burns.
3. Speedy Gonzales. This young mouse hails from south of the border, and has enough speed to run from Guadalajara to Bigfork, Montana in less than 24 hours. This strapping Vaquero loves competition and really loves leaving his fellow contestants in the dust.
4. Anonymouse. We’d tell you his real name, but…we don’t know it. Anonymouse was placed at the lodge as part of the U.S. Federal Witness Protection program. And while we’ll never know his true identity, we do know that his favorite pastime is winning races and taking (other mice’s) names.
5. Chuck E. Cheese. You know this mouse from his world-famous chain of restaurants where families can eat, have a good time and play. When he’s not making pizza, he’s here at the lodge strutting his stuff on the ropes. His business savvy shines through both at work and in the mouse race arena.
You can learn all about them – and get an early start on voting – at HopeKids.org.
Until next time,
There are certain times in life that change you. Moments in a crazy year that mold, inspire and leave you feeling more grateful that you could have ever imagined. And for us, this year that moment was a Week of Hope.
For the second year in a row – in partnership with HopeKids – we welcomed critically ill children and their families to Flathead Lake Lodge. And as fate would have it, this was done (for the second time in a row) in the middle of a pandemic. And for those few days, it was like nothing else existed. All that mattered was welcoming those families to this place that seemingly has some sort of magic to it.
While I was born and raised on the ranch (and am now raising my own family here), I never tire of seeing guests soak up our Montana way of life, and that’s never truer than when we’re joined by families during a Week of Hope. While Grandpa Les isn’t with us at the ranch anymore, his spirit is still here and the legacy he built – one made up of hard work, ingenuity and his commitment to treating people with kindness – lives on and shines a little brighter during this week.
As always, we could not (and do not) bring this event to life on our own. There are so many people who work behind the scenes to make a Week of Hope happen.
To our families – your determination, dedication and love of life is something that we felt honored to see and be a part of. Thank you for trusting us and allowing us to be part of your memories. To our staff, you’re one of the best parts of this place. As you do week in and week out, I had the pleasure of seeing your commitment not only to your jobs, but to the families you welcomed with open arms as you worked hard to ensure they left feeling better than they came. To each and every volunteer who played a part, you do not go unnoticed and the gratitude we have for you in matchless. And to our donors – a big thank you for the generosity you have in making this event come to fruition.
From the Averill family, we’re humbled, grateful and privileged to be a part of this with all of you and are looking forward to a Week of Hope 2022.
For the second year in a row, Flathead Lake Lodge is working with HopeKids to welcome critically ill children and their families to the ranch to experience what life is like the way its meant to be — soaking up Montana, running free on our 2,000 acres and creating family memories that will last forever. To help bring this year’s Week of Hope event to life, we’re utilizing one of our most-loved ranch traditions: MOUSE RACES.
To support a Week of Hope, vote for Mouse of the Year.
Without further ado, meet the mice.
1. Julius Cheeser. Don’t confuse him with the mouse who has a salad named after him–that’s his biggest pet peeve and that guy didn’t single-pawedly build the Bigfork Empire. Grab your bowl of white cheddar popcorn because his story is one of tragedy, but he doesn’t know that yet. There are whispers of conspiracy amongst the BigFork Mouse-ators to end Cheeser’s life. He’s participating in the Mouse Race to bring honor to BigFork and prove his power over the Empire. Given the magnitude of the race, some believe he is focusing on the wrong things and it will ultimately be his downfall, akin to fiddling while Bigfork burns.
2. Fievel. Much like his great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather in 1885, Fievel came West in search of a place with more room to roam and space to explore. He hitched a ride as a stowaway on the Nor’Easter, one of Flathead Lake Lodge’s 51-foot Q-class racing sloops, and has been here ever since. He lives a quiet life and spends much of his time tidying up the boat barn, helping Chef Rob weed the herb gardens and has even been known to help Captain Scott with boat maintenance. With steady legs on land and sea, Fievel just may be the mouse to beat.
3. Mouserella. You know the story, it’s a tail as old as time. Mouserella is always cleaning up after her evil step-mouse-sisters. Her fairy godhamster grants Mouserella’s wish of attending the prince’s ball and transforms her plain hamster ball into a sparkly one fit for a princess mouse! When the clock strikes midnight, Mouserella scurries down the steps leaving behind one tiny glass mouse slipper on the steps to be found by her one true prince. Little does the prince know that he will have to make his way to the beautiful shores of Flathead Lake to find his princess as she trains for the big race! You have seen her speed as she tries to beat the clock, Mouserella is looked upon as the dark-mouse of the race.
4. Bugsy. Found in cabin one, Bugsy was appropriately named for one of the ranch’s first guests, Bugsy Siegel. One of the founders of modern-day Las Vegas, Bugsy (and his girlfriend Virginia Hill) stayed in cabin one in the mid 1940s when he was on the run from the FBI. Living up to his namesake, Bugsy can be found at the barn hustling the horses and placing bets on which lodge guest team will win the team penning activity on Friday nights in the arena. He’s scrappy, smart and handsome, and the odds always seem to be in his favor.
5. Boba Feta. Tired of fighting Galactic civil wars and feeling like he was stuck on the bounty hunter hamster wheel, Boba has churned his focus to mentoring the next generation of bounty hunters in the mountains of Montana. Feta is a loner so not much is known about him but some with inside knowledge say he has a sharp turn of speed and was even seen participating in the Spartan race as a warm up for the great mouse race. If you can muenster enough courage he might be a gouda bet and worth putting a few dollars on for the big race.
From our extended Flathead Lake Lodge family to you, thank you for being part of a Week of Hope.
Please join us by voting on Mouse of the Year. Voting ends Thursday, August 19.
Happy voting and bidding,
Over the years, we’ve been lucky enough to host countless guests, dignitaries, groups, weddings and more, and it has been our absolute pleasure to introduce everyone who drives in our gates to Flathead Lake Lodge. And while we have loved every minute with so many guests, we’re still soaking in the magic from A Week of Hope. It’s one of those experiences that will go down in the history of the lodge and in the memory of our staff forever.
While we know we’ve shared various bits of information about A Week of Hope (you can read past blogs here and here), we had some very kind friends who volunteered to make a video recapping the week. And in the interest of full disclosure, we also have to tell you that we have watched this video countless times and each time, tears of gratitude, hope and thankfulness fill up our eyes. (Yes, cowboys do cry.)
We invite you to take a few minutes and watch it below.
When we look back on this week, the relationships that were formed are best described as magic. Families met one another and bonds were created over shared experiences and an understanding of what each other and their families are going through as they fight for their kids, cheer them on and bring them hope and joy, in spite of health battles that are faced every single day.
One of our guests from the week said it best, “We’re not promised tomorrow, any of us. And the ability to do these things as a family and have something that will stick with us is nothing but pure joy.”
To our dear families, thank you for trusting us to keep you safe and well in the wilds of Montana. And thank you for allowing us (and our incredible staff, partners, volunteers, vendors and donors) to be involved in a week of pure joy. This week was one we’ll never forget and for that, we’re forever thankful.
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.
In case you haven’t, “A Week of Hope” is how we’re celebrating Flathead Lake Lodge’s 75th anniversary in 2020. From June 7 – 14, 2020, the lodge is giving back by welcoming critically ill children and their families to the ranch where they’ll experience life the way it’s meant to be–running free, soaking up experiences and creating memories with the people they love the most.
To bring this event and celebration of life to fruition, we’re asking for your help in the form of donations to help cover travel and hard costs of bringing these families to the heart of Montana. There are four ways to donate and GIFT HOPE this holiday season.
2. Gift hope. From November 12 – December 2, 2019, when you donate $50 or more, Flathead Lake Lodge will send you (or the recipient of your choice) a custom-made Flathead Lake Lodge holiday ornament. The ornament is made of wood and includes our special 75th anniversary logo and Week of Hope wording. If you’re looking to give gifts differently for the holidays, we invite you to consider gifting hope. Give hope here.
4. Donate your Delta SkyMiles. Travel flight costs are one of the largest expenses we’re anticipating to bring these children and their families to Montana and Flathead Lake Lodge. If you have spare Delta SkyMiles, you can donate them here (our account number and name can be found here).
As we move into this year’s holiday season, please join us and gift hope as we work together to help these families create irreplaceable memories at a time when they need it most.