Sean Merkel, board chairman

It’s hard to believe, but the Erickson Merkel Foundation just named its third year of scholarship awardees, and we couldn’t be more proud.

In 2014 we came together for the first time as a fledgling board to see if we could make this dream happen. I’m extremely happy to say – as Chairman and as the son of one of our scholarship namesakes – that we’ve had slow but steady growth since our founding. As of this year, we will have awarded $18,000 in scholarships to the hardest-working scholars out there.

We can’t wait to make those awards count. We’ve managed to award one more scholarship each year – three in 2015, four in 2016 and five this year. Additionally, we’ve partnered with the Belisle Family to award the Henry and Patricia Belisle Determination Scholarship to a Thomas Edison High School Senior. And we’ve managed to grow some of our local, community-driven events.

In North Dakota, our team there increased the size of the ever-growing Winter Dummy Race, and its associated funds raised. In Minnesota, our team is looking forward to the second year of its Workhorse 5K/10K Fun Run/Walk, which will take place in White Bear Lake this Saturday. I hope to see you there!

Both state teams are planning to rid themselves of some household clutter again this year in fundraising garage sales. Last year, North Dakota brought in roughly $500 and we’re hoping to bring that in again.

A new raffle started by the Minnesota team has been fairly popular so far, with tickets moving fast. If you haven’t heard about it yet, we’ve got 1,000 tickets that you can get for a $5, 1-in-200 chance at five cash prizes. The top two prizes will also receive a one-week resort stay in either Dominican Republic or Mexico.

Finally, North Dakota will be holding a bean bag tournament and BBQ in late July in Mandan at Rock Point. There will be live music by the Flea-Bitten Tramps, the band of our co-founder, throughout the afternoon. If you’re in the area it will take place right along the Missouri River, and the North Dakota team has said there’s no better place to be in late July.

Enough about our fundraisers. While that’s a major way for us to get these scholarships together, the real fun is in awarding them. And again, there was some fierce competition. In 2015 we had roughly 45 applicants to reflect on. This year we had more than 850. Look to our website and Facebook page in the next month to read profiles on this year’s winners. I can say that they are real stand-outs!

I would especially like to thank our scholarship committee and Scholarship Director Betsy Johnson. Due to their tremendous efforts we have been able to streamline the application and review process, which allows us a fantastic and objective methodology for reviewing and rating our candidates.

I’d like to thank everyone for their continued interest in our organization, from family and friends to donors to the applicants themselves. We hope to continue our steady growth well into the future, and you have all impacted that in a highly positive way!