Congratulations to Scott Beckstrand who will be inducted into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame at the Hall of Fame Banquet at the Ramkota on March 23.

Jill Meeker nominated Teacher of the Year


Judy Burk: The Baby Rocker

Judy Burk: The Baby Rocker

It’s critical that babies who are born prematurely receive a lot of attention while in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, but parents can’t always be there. At the Sanford NICU, volunteers give the babies some much needed TLC. KDLT’s Miranda Paige introduces us to this week’s “Someone You Should Know.”

Judy Burk is known as the “baby whisperer.” She’s always had a knack for rocking, talking and singing a baby to sleep. So becoming a “baby rocker” in the Sanford NICU was a perfect fit.

“I think the infants need to be rocked. I think they need the touch. I think they need the communication,” said Burk.

She started volunteering five years ago. Before that, she worked in the medical field for 50 years but had to retire to take over her husband’s business after he passed away.

“I didn’t want the business to be all-consuming, so I wanted to volunteer and I thought what better way to volunteer and to care than with the infants,” said Burk.

Her job is to rock the premie babies giving them human interaction, warmth and security. Experts say cuddling can help with the baby’s brain development. Burk also likes to talk and read to them.

“I like to tell them stories.”

She does this in the hope that someday they can tell their own.

“The breath patterns that a child experiences as we’re holding them makes them a better communicator in their adult life,” said Burk.

To be a successful baby rocker, Burk says you have to be caring and she takes her job very seriously.

“They’re fighting actually for their lives, some of them. You know they’re born with very, their weight is very little,” said Burk.

Over the years, she’s rocked quite a few babies and loves to see their progress.

“They grow and you can see how the parents blossom also in this experience,” said Burk.

The babies are able to grow and mature thanks to Burk’s help. You never know where that could take them.

“You could be rocking the president. You could be rocking architects. You could be rocking a nurse, a doctor. You could be rocking any one of those professions,” said Burk.

Right now, Sanford has 98 baby rocker volunteers. They have a waiting list as it’s the most requested position.

If you’re interested in learning more or how to apply, visit the link here:

Weisser Distributing was recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. for 2018 and one of eleven South Dakota businesses.  Congratulations to Bob Weisser and Weisser Distributing.

Courtney Miller, junior at USF, was named to the Spring 2018 Dean's List.  Congratulations, Courtney!

Congratulations to the Sioux Falls Flyers Bantam hockey team on their state tournament championship.  Hilltopper Myles Rees is a member of the winning team.


Hilltop members and friends answered the call for UMCOR Cleaning Kits needed to help with clean up after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.  They gave generously to fill a total of eleven buckets.  Many thanks to all who gave and the many workers who shopped for the supplies and filled the buckets.


Andrew DeVaney, DWU 2015, (pictured below) received a full-tuition Kern Scholarship to Denver Seminary.  He is currently in his second year of the Master of Divinity program.  Andrew is the CEO and founder of As One Ministries, and works as a Justice Seminarian at Bloom Church in Denver.

jim ricketts.jpg

Act of Excellence

Submitted by Ms. Betty Meyer , SD Hall of Fame

Danielle Luettel:  Role Model for Youth of All Ages

Danielle Luettel provides an excellent example of dedication to championing a culture of excellence through demonstration of continuing volunteerism to better the community, or school, church, and her family. A junior at Washington High School in Sioux Falls, SD, she is an outstanding youth leader with an exceptional positive attitude and a humble and unassuming personality.

It is been a privilege to observe her growth into a beautiful confident young lady as a member of our church, Hilltop United Methodist Church. She is always so caring and respectful to adults and the young children adore her and all know her as “Dani”. She interacts with children exceptionally well with her smiles and sweet disposition. When she walks in the room, it looks like the Pied Piper has arrived with little ones running to her!

Ms. Luettel has volunteered for every church event including Sunday school, Bible School, Halloween “Trunk or Treat”, and Easter services. She also was our church Lead for “Samaritan’s Feet” in 2016. She has participated in the shoe giveaway for underserved children at the start of school. She gave eloquent updates of the program as she asked for donations from the Sioux Falls Methodist churches. She also organizes the “Sharing Christmas” program at our church that includes raising money, shopping for gifts, and delivering the items to underserved families. Last year the program helped 15 families.

Ms. Luettel is on the Youth Council at our church and has taken mission trips to Maine, Kentucky, Guatemala and Dallas. Her reports of helping underserved children have been very moving. She is also generous in giving her team members the credit for the success of the mission trip.

Through Washington High and the Helpline, she has provided over 1000 volunteer hours with SALSA (Serve and Learn Student Association). Examples of projects include The Walk to End Alzheimer’s, The Mall Walk for Diabetes, Lyons Pancake Feed, and wrapping Christmas presents at the Empire Mall for Children’s Home Society.

Ms. Luettel is dedicated to championing excellence as a performing artist in dance. She teaches 3 dance classes for youth in Sioux Falls and teaches dance to the underserved children on the Mission trips.

An exceptional student, she is enrolled in three Advanced Placement classes and has over a 4.0 GPA. She is planning to enter college as a sophomore.

She has been a nanny for a family of 3 young children for the past 3 summers and recently began a part time job at a Bagel Shop. She is also a regular Blood Donor at Avera Blood Bank.

Ms. Luettel is a role model for youth of all ages. She is an exceptional example of championing the culture of excellence in South Dakota.


Betty Meyer 2016 Inductee into the SD Hall of Fame

Hero and pioneer of breast cancer programming

The following is Betty's biography highlighting the many contributions she has made to breast health for South Dakota women.

      Elizabeth Meyer is proud of her father's 3rd generation South Dakota roots, and her mother's Cherokee Nation heritage.  After high school in Alexandria SD she earned her degree from Sioux Valley Hospital X-Ray Technology School.

      She worked with the first mammography and breast cancer screening program in SD, presenting over 80 educational sessions on American Cancer Society screening mammography guidelines.  She then launched the first mobile mammography services available to rural hospitals and clinics in a three-state area.

      Elizabeth was awarded the "Un-Sung Hero" honor from the National Conference of State Legislators Women's Network for heading up state-mandated insurance coverage for mammography screening.

      Her leadership helped the SD Susan G. Komen Foundation raise one million, providing funding for numerous S.D. breast health programs through "All Women Count."  As a trustee of the National Consortium of Breast Centers, she helped author the first national Breast Center Accreditation program.



     Emily Ullom, a Hilltop youth, was a member of the cast of "The Music Man" presented by Brandon Valley High School recently.  Emily, pictured on the right, played the part of Ado Annie and gave a spectacular performance.


Congratulations to Courtney Miller named to the Fall 2015 Dean's List at the University of Sioux Falls.


Where are they now?

    What spurred Meyer to pose a more hardline approach with South Dakota insurance companies came from conversations with women who were diagnosed.
     “I was certificated in mammography, and one of my jobs was to follow those women who needed surgery. My doctors wanted me to call on these women personally and find out what was going on in their lives. It was through these conversations I learned that South Dakota didn’t mandate health insurance companies to cover the cost of a mammography. I started reading more to understand what was behind the insurance industry’s reasoning.”
     “The insurance industry’s lobby was very strong. They had convinced all these groups made up mostly of men that insurance rates would skyrocket if insurance policies were mandated to pay for mammographies.”
     Meyer was not willing to accepting “no” for an answer. In 1987, she and 40 breast cancer survivors chartered a bus and went to Pierre to lobby the lobbyists and the South Dakota Legislature.
“Lawyer Cathy Piersol also came long serving as the group’s spokesperson and giving the group some real flare,” she said.
     It took Meyer three years and some special tactics to change the mindset and status quo.
“Just showing up in Pierre wasn’t enough,” said Meyer. “We had to find another way. When we went to Pierre the second year, we also took time out to visit with the wives of the legislators. We felt that these women could better persuade their husbands than a bus load of women filling the Capitol.”
Knowing Governor Mickelson opposed the idea, Meyer and the breast cancer survivors sought out First Lady Linda Mickelson.
     “It was Valentine’s Day, and our busload of 40 women pulled up to the governor’s mansion and personally delivered a dozen red roses to Linda Mickelson,” Meyer said. “Mrs. Mickelson loved it.”
Though it took three years to get the job done, Meyer was thrilled when Governor Mickelson signed the bill in June of 1990.
     Results of the law were instantaneous.  “Word traveled. Women told other women,” she said. “Mammographies in South Dakota tripled that year. It was such good news for me especially since 80 percent of breast cancer is found in women with no family history. That education piece suddenly burst into the forefront.”

     Meyer’s efforts were nationally recognized in 1991. She was honored at the National Conference of State Legislative Women’s Network being awarded with the Unsung Hero Award.
Meyer continued her stump, serving on the board and as president of the Susan G. Komen from 2005 to 2011. She was also on the Board of the American Cancer Society and the National Consortium of Breast Centers.
     “It is exciting to be on the forefront of breast health,” she said. “I am an introvert; I never imagined leading these organizations, making presentations, and speaking to the legislature.  But I became inspired by people I believed could help.”
     Meyer retired in 2010 to spend more time with her family and be a grandmother. She travels to Texas during the winter and volunteers in a grade school. By happenstance she found herself on another mission helping homeless women with children. Enlisting the support of friends, Meyer adopted a homeless mother with five children and set in motion an all-out effort to help this family get back on its feet.
     “For many of these homeless children, school is a sanctuary. It was where I met one of the children when I was volunteering. I soon became friends with the whole family,” she said. “At one point I asked this child, what does your family need the most right now.  The answer: shoes. Buying shoes for five children became the starting point for this family. Others reached out to help as well.  Just like the issue with insurance-paid mammographies, it just takes someone noticing a need then raising awareness. The rest just seems to fall into place.”

Congratulations are in order!

Hilltop's Feeding South Dakota BackPack team has been nominated for the 2015 Spirit of Volunteerism Award in the Group Category.  These awards, sponsored by the Helpline Center, are held annually to recognize outstanding volunteers in Sioux Falls.   At an awards banquet May 5, all nominees will be recognized and winners announced.  One Tuesday afternoon every month from September through May a team of 18 - 20 Hilltop volunteers spend one hour filling backpacks with nutritious snacks and food for weekend meals.  Over 3,000 backpacks are distributed to children in need who attend schools in Sioux Falls.  These backpacks  provide necessary supplement to the families food supply.   Thank you to our hardworking volunteers and to Feeding South Dakota for the nomination.

Celebrating Special Times with our Hilltop Family

Pam Christensen and David Blair were blessed to receive a prayer shawl made by Hilltop's Angelic knitters.


Colton Levitt and Garrett Ellis, Hilltop youth who are juniors at Washington H S,  were recognized for academic excellence at an honors banquet.  Hilltop is blessed with many fine young people.

Bob Lane was recognized by Hy-Vee for 40 years of service. 

Congratulations Bob.

Father, Son Find Common Link as Sports Officials

By Terry Vandrovec,

Reproduced with permission of Argus Leader Media


            There are two decorative themes in the basement family room of Jim Ricketts Jr. — Green Bay Packers and officiating.  A mock magazine cover depicting Ricketts and his father, Jim Ricketts Sr., standing side by side in their football officiating gear is given the same wall placement as jerseys autographed by Ray Nitschke, Paul Hornung and Clay Matthews.

That's how much sports officiating means to father and son, how much it's a part of their relationship. It's practically the family business.

            "I'm the one that got him into it," Senior said proudly. "It worked out pretty well."

Junior started as a high school kid, working his younger sister's rec league basketball games — an assignment given out by his dad. That early involvement seemed natural. After all, Junior used to tag along to games, once running onto the court during a live high school basketball game. He was 4.

            It was slightly different for Senior — he was a football player and coach, first at the University of Wyoming and then the University of Sioux Falls.  He began working city league basketball games in Laramie during college, at a time when $3 per night was decent money. Then he got into middle school contests and worked his way up. He stuck with officiating longer than coaching, spanning about 45 years — about 35 with the same football crew.

            Among the thrills of that career: Working games with his son. Senior gets a kick out of watching Junior officiate much in the way that he used to enjoy watching him play. Still, the passing down happened naturally.

            "I used to go along to basketball games when I was little, but I never really thought about it," Junior said of being a referee. Now, Junior is in his officiating prime at age 45, frequently doing state championship games in high school football, plus college assignments. He's experienced, in good shape and relatively available in that he's a middle school teacher.

But stories of generational officials are becoming harder to find, says South Dakota High School Activities Association executive director Wayne Carney. Legacy or not, it takes time to develop into a varsity-caliber official, and some newcomers don't want to take the time given the grief they're likely to take from spectators along the way.

            "The list goes on of people who have very distinguished careers in officiating, and that wasn't developed overnight, but it has to start somewhere," said Carney, a former official.

Getting started can be difficult. But the journey can be rewarding.

            "Over the years, officiating did a lot of things for our family," Ricketts Sr. said.