Bill Ouimet trudged through waist-high snow and reached a 16-by-20-foot cement building that would be, for the next quarter decade, his home.
It was 1977, and Camp Stidwell, on the south end of Mirror Lake, was in need of a caretaker. Vandalism had creeped in, so his presence was going to stave it off.
“I came here in January, and the old guy that hired me … we went around back, opened the door and I walked in. Cement floors, tin roof, no insulation,” Ouimet said. “He goes, ‘See you in the spring, son.’ I turned around and he was gone.”
The next morning, Ouimet—pronounced “weemet”— cut a path down to the lake, chopped a hole in the ice and carried back some water to heat on his front-porch stove.
“I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’” he said.
Nearly 43 years later, Ouimet is still there, albeit in a much nicer home, but even that wasn’t built until 2005.
It has been a decade since Ruth Klinginsmith and Karin Wedemeyer embarked on their journey of establishing a music conservatory here in Sandpoint. Guided by their backgrounds as musicians (Ruth a violinist and Karin a German born and raised opera singer), the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint opened its doors to musical hopefuls, with just a handful of students in the cold back room of a dance studio, in September of 2009.
“I do remember our humble start-up when we set out to add to the music world in Sandpoint,” recalls Karin, Music Conservatory of Sandpoint’s (MCS) executive director. “As we had met in a little café, we patiently waited for our coffee to cool down, which took just enough time for us to move away from our initial idea of creating a Saturday workshop to improve general music reading skills to a full-blown idea of creating a music conservatory. One that one would imagine on the East or West coast—but Sandpoint?”
The Sandpoint community is unlike any other, joining together to help out when others are in need and are facing hardships. The community has an opportunity to come out and show their support to a local family as Heath Okon, husband to Diana and father to their two sons Brycen and Christian, has been battling advanced stage synovial sarcoma.
“Advanced stage synovial sarcoma is cancer that starts in the extremities of the body, typically arms or legs near the joints,” says Diana. “Heath’s is in his thigh and, unfortunately, was very large before diagnosed. If the cancer has spread, it typically metastasis to the lungs and continues on from there. This makes it near impossible to cure. Heath's has metastasized to his lungs, and he had over 20-plus in both lobes.”
First diagnosed in May of 2018, Heath has been through chemo and immunotherapy, radiation and inpatient chemotherapy. Though these treatments have shrunk some of the tumors, they are still, unfortunately, inoperable. “The fact that nothing is operable has been extremely difficult,” says Diana.
Sandpoint has a colossal amount of educated craft beer drinkers, and what better way to expand on their knowledge than to have extraordinary breweries in the area to learn from. One, in particular, Laughing Dog Brewing, has proven their abilities to create beers that are both tasteful to their customers and also obtain the “wow” factor to win national awards.
This year, Laughing Dog took their talents once again to the North American Brewers Association International Beer Awards competition in Idaho Falls, the second largest in the nation. Although taking four beers to the competition in different categories, the new and innovative English Pale Ale was the one that gained the most traction at the event.
Judging of the beers submitted to the competition fall within four different categories: appearance, aroma, flavor and carbonation levels. “Just because a beer tastes good doesn’t mean it falls into stylistic categories,” as Evan Addario, brewer extraordinaire said, “so we needed to create something that would be appealing to judges and, of course, our customers at home.”
Sean Bonner is quick to call himself a nerd, and during his 15 years living in North Idaho, he has come to realize that he is not alone.
Through the Coeur d’Alene branch of the Innovation Collective, he and other self-avowed nerds have a place to come together and work toward the organization’s mission, which is to create “a global entrepreneurship movement in smaller towns,” nodding to the uniqueness of each town and the skills of each member.
Charles Buck is the associate vice president and executive officer for University of Idaho Coeur d’Alene, and his charge is to increase educational access in the community to foster positive growth and development, not just in Coeur d’Alene but in towns across the state.
So perhaps it was only a matter of time that the efforts of Buck and people like Bonner in the Innovation Collective were able to come together. And come together they have, with a program that is off to a faster start than either of them expected.
When people work together to find ways of improving the quality of life in their community, that’s a good thing. When they bring about something that improves the quality of life and promotes better health opportunities year-round, that’s even better!
For residents of Sandpoint, the list of healthy outdoor activities is vast with a seemingly endless variety of options for nearly every age or skill level. During inclement weather, the list of things to do narrows substantially, and for lower income families, even more so.
So when the YMCA opened in the former Sandpoint West Athletic Club facility last December, the options for indoor activities increased dramatically and, most importantly, affordably.
For more than a decade, a dedicated and diverse group of citizens focused on creating a community recreation center with the goal that it be accessible by every person and family who wanted to join. In 2013, realizing they had no funding or expertise in areas such as fundraising or program planning, the group decided to partner with YMCA of Inland Northwest.