Ten-year-old Arabelle “Ari” Hemmer, daughter of Nicole and Eric Hemmer, is a faithful volunteer at Elk Run Assisted Living. What started as a means to “earn” a one-on-one trip with her dad has transitioned into routine visits and actively volunteering with Elk Run residents and staff. “Before coming to Elk Run, I wanted to be a pilot, but now I want to be a nurse,” claims Ari, who never fails to share her heartwarming smiles and cheerful demeanor with staff and residents alike.
Eric explains how the concept of taking his kids on magical one-on-one trips came to be: “My Uncle Jim had two sons and thought one-on-one time was important, so he took them on these trips as they were coming of age.” Eric took this concept and made it a trip the kids could earn and go with him anywhere they wanted within the United States as long as they met specific goals that included fitness goals, academics, religious (receiving their sacraments), and completing a set number of hours of community service. Elk Run is close to the Hemmer’s house and made it easy for Ari to do her community service there. What they didn’t expect was that she wanted to continue going to Elk Run long after she met the two-hour community service requirement.
Ari’s mom, Nicole, reveals how destiny played a pivotal role in uniting her with Eric: “My three sisters and I grew up on a farm in Huntington, Indiana, which is known for its rural setting and small-town charm. My parents still live in my childhood home and one of my sisters and her family now live on the family farm where my grandparents lived when we grew up. One of my other sisters still lives in Indiana as well. Family was always the central core of our life. Eric grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, which is where the U.S. Naval Academy is located. Ironically, Eric’s mom grew up in Huntington, and I was best friends with one of his cousins. I also knew his grandmother very well. His grandmother used to babysit me and my best friend, but I never knew Eric until we both attended my best friend’s wedding in Fort Wayne, Indiana.”
Eric’s story slightly differs, as he and Nicole had met prior to the wedding: “I attended a party in Indiana when my cousins graduated from high school and college a few years prior to meeting Nicole again at the wedding. I instantly thought Nicole was cute when I met her at the graduation party, but she had a boyfriend at the time.” Adding to the wedding story, Nicole claims, “Eric asked if I remembered him, and I definitely did not. But I thought he was quite cute so I was more than happy to talk to him.”
Nicole’s ties to Eric’s family and their attraction to one another quickly elevated their romance. Eric says, “I had the opportunity to move to Colorado with my company, and I didn’t have to think twice about it. I packed up the car, the dogs, hitched up my boat and headed west. Although Nicole was in Chicago, our long-distance romance flourished. We were both well established in our careers, and what most impressed me about her was the fact that our love of the outdoors, family, religious and financial values were well matched. I was also impressed how Nicole worked hard but loved fun and excitement. We both competed in triathlons, loved to camp and ski, and she wanted to have kids as much as I did.” Both agreed that getting married was “an easy choice,” and Nicole adds, “Eric didn’t have to ask me twice about marrying him and moving to Colorado.”
Ten years ago, Eric and Nicole decided to move from the Highlands in Denver up-the-hill to Evergreen with sons Stanton, now 15, Beckett, 13, and daughter Ari, 10, who at the time was three months old. “We loved the recreational opportunities Evergreen offers as well as the really good school options. As a family, we can easily go for hikes or mountain bike from our house, and our kids love to ski. Each of our kids started skiing when they were two years old,” Nicole shares, “so they’re very proficient on the slopes and it is a favorite family activity.”
“Family trips remain a priority,” adds Eric, “although it’s becoming more challenging because our kids are now vested in their own interests such as team sports and music—and Stanton now has a job with a landscaping company in the summers—but keeping family our first priority is what is important to all of us. Getting together with family during the holidays are main events. Because we have no family in Colorado, we make an effort to be with family during Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s fun to get together to play board games, watch holiday movies and go on hikes.”
Family vacations and outings are of utmost importance to the Hemmer kids. Stanton reveals, “Perhaps my most memorable trip with the family to date is when we went to Germany. I loved experiencing the German culture and was amazed at the sights we saw. It was a cool foreign experience, but the greatest part of the trip was spending time with my family. My parents make it a priority to spend time with each of us, and rarely do they miss my lacrosse tournaments. We also try to have family dinners every night.” Beckett added to this, saying his favorite family activities include boating and skiing as a family.
Eric adds, “Family dinner is when we have a chance to sit down together and catch up. Nicole loves to cook so we make every effort to sit down together in the evenings as long as we can work around the kids’ activities.” And what happens when siblings quibble as most siblings do? “I ask the kids to write apology notes to one another and then give each other a hug,” claims Eric.
“That happened just last night,” giggles Ari. “Beckett and I got into it, which we often do, but I didn’t mind writing an apology letter, and once we read each other’s letters, we always end up getting along again.”
To this observer, the Hemmer family is one for all and all for one, and certainly caring and compassionate as evidenced by Ari’s comfort and compassion to lavish love on Elk Run’s senior population. Influencer Elizabeth Berg quips, “You are born into your family and your family is born into you. No returns. No exchanges.” The Hemmer family’s ability to relate to one another seemingly proves that family is not only the important thing—it’s everything!