Bob graduated Magna Cum Laude from Central Michigan University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology.
He retired after 20 years as Executive Director of a Rehabilitation Facility serving disabled adults from Cheboygan County.
Bob was elected to two terms on the City of Cheboygan Council and served one of those terms as Mayor Pro Term.
He is currently the President of Cheboygan Life Support Services Ambulance Board and has been serving on that board since 1998. He has also served as Treasurer of the Cheboygan Soccer Association.
He is an active member of the Knights of Columbus Council 791 and enjoys volunteering with programs that help the community.
Bob is originally from New York but settled in the Cheboygan area in the late 70’s. He and his wife live in a beautiful setting 8 miles south of Cheboygan and continue to enjoy all the beauty found in living in northern Michigan.
He loves to be outdoors and his hobbies include biking, hiking, swimming, boating, camping and working in his garden.
Both he and his wife enjoy spending time with family which gives them the opportunity to travel the country as their family is spread from coast to coast.
Ronald, Ron for short, was born in Lorain, Ohio.
He graduated from Amherst Public School in 1968. From there, he graduated from Oberlin School of Commerce in 1970.
If that was not enough formal education, he went on and did several other commerce courses at Lorain County Community College.
In 1978 he moved to Cheboygan, Michigan and continued his education at North Central Michigan College.
Ron is an ocean of experience when it comes to bookkeeping and accounting.
He began his bookkeeping career at City Bank, Loraine, Ohio as Bookkeeping Supervisor. Then he moved up and worked for Klingshirn Corporation as Senior Expense Allocator.
In the community of Cheboygan, he worked as Credit Manager for Cheboygan Lumber Company, Collection Agent for Northern Credit Bureau in Petoskey. At J.B. Webb Corporation in Harbor Springs, Michigan, he was Accounts Payable Supervisor and Cost Accountant.
He joined Straits Area Services in 1987 as Vocational Instructor, Personnel Manager, and Financial Director till 2011 when he retired.
Ron gave up his free time and is back doing what he loves, making sure the numbers balance.
Patti retired from MSU Extension after 15 years as Nutrition Instructor.
She worked in the Dietary Department at Cheboygan Community Memorial Hospital as a Dietary Assistant. She has been on the Cheboygan 4H council 4 years and is currently secretary.
She enjoys volunteering in community events and projects and one of her more notable achievements was to promote and develop “Project FRESH”. This program provides a method for seniors to purchase fresh produce from local farmers.
Patti’s biggest joy is spending time with family and supporting them in any way possible.
She has a creative spirit and constantly searches for opportunities to make life better, easier or more enjoyable for all those she encounters.
Many of her hobbies are involved with being outdoors but her favorite hobby is recycling items that have been tossed and giving them new life.
Ross has proven his pedigree as an Entrepreneur in the Retail, import & export of commodities, 3rd party warehousing & logistics, Food processing (HACCP) focusing on fishing and recently in primary agriculture. Ross has managed large landed based cold storage facilities and food processing factories servicing the food & logistics industry.
He has been involved in the successful set up of greenfield projects in various industries and is an entrepreneur in Venture financing, Business development, Commercial property, and business brokering.
Ross currently acts as the CEO of an Architectural LED lighting solutions as well as Managing Director of a Renewable energy company focused on Hybrid RE solutions utilizing combinations of wind, hydro, sun, and biomass technologies.
Ross recently with partners founded a niche primary agricultural and value adding indigenous botanical growing program in Southern Africa. The business also engages in a wildlife breeding program and offers a hospitality service to nature lovers.
Ross was born and bred in Southern Africa and has a passion for its people, their diversities, and the natural beauty of the continent.
He enjoys the outdoors lifestyle, fly fishing and 4X4 off road driving - and the opportunities that travel affords him. Ross is currently based between South Africa and the USA as he develops new markets for his entrepreneurial endeavors.
1st Lieutenant Platoon Commander,
SADF (South African Defense Force),
SAI (South African Infantry)
Andre and Natalie van der Merwe founded Snowdrift Siberians in Cape Town, South Africa in 1992 and have been involved with this magical breed ever since. We breed, sled, and show our Siberian Huskies and firmly believe that this amazing breed needs to be more than just a show dog – they need to be able to perform their original function in harness well. That way, we can ensure that their legendary sledding history is one that is carried forward to future generations.
We have lived our lives with and for our children and our dogs and have been very blessed with the most amazing friends along our life journey.
“To a musher there is no more beautiful sound than the silence of a good run, broken only by the soft sounds of the dog team’s breath. You feel blessed that these amazing creatures take you along for the ride. The magic defies words.”
We are beyond proud of our friends – Al-jo and Gerhardt Thiart – and support them both all the way with their Iditarod dream! Fund-raising, getting the word out there to potential sponsors and any other way we can…to help them achieve this once-in-a-lifetime dream! It all started on a dusty farm road in South Africa – many, many years ago, when we introduced them to the sport of dryland sledding.
We will be there in Alaska in March 2022 – cheering on the FIRST South African to take part in the Iditarod…!!!
Andre van der Merwe
SADF (South African Defense Force)
SAN (South African Navy)
Tom Knott is an accounting professor at North Central Michigan College. Growing up in the Detroit area, Tom moved to northern Michigan in 1994 and never looked back. He earned a BS in Accountancy from Ferris State University beginning a career as a Certified Public Accountant in Petoskey, Michigan.
Wanting to make a more meaningful difference in people’s lives he continued his education, earning a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Ferris State University. Tom’s passion for helping students achieve their dreams first led him to Gaylord Community Schools where he taught Middle and High School Mathematics for six years.
Combining his years of experience as a CPA, and as an educator, Tom now teaches accounting at North Central Michigan College.
Tom lives in northern Michigan and enjoys spending time sailing in the summer and skiing in the winter. His two boys are both in college pursuing their dreams.
Al-Jo grew up on a fruit and dairy farm near the town of Worcester in South Africa. Her first few years at school, she attended a small school farm, just one little room. She later went to Worcester High School where she graduated.
After graduation, she furthered her education in Hospitality at Tygerberg College. Wanting to make extra pocket money to pay for her tuition, she started working as a server at one of the local restaurants where she met her husband to be which was managing the restaurant.
In 2003 she got married to Gerhardt and together they opened their own restaurant where she was in charge of all the functions. A few years later they sold the restaurant, and she took a job at Tygerberg Animal Hospital as an Inventory Controller. Tygerberg Animal Hospital had several outlets at that time, and she travelled from outlet to outlet to do inventory checks, update inventory levels and do ordering for the entire company.
In 2010, Al-Jo and her husband Gerhardt, came to America to see more of the world and to learn more about the sport of dog sledding. In 2013 she graduated with a career diploma as a Veterinary Assistant from Penn Foster Career school. She worked for two years at the Animal Medical Clinic of Cheboygan until November 2021 when she resigned to join her husband, Gerhardt in Alaska where he trains for the Iditarod. She'll be assisting her husband.
In 2018, Al-Jo and her husband Gerhardt founded GAT Foundation to raise funds for the improvement of the educational infrastructure of their home country in support of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Al-Jo has a passion for animals. She loves the outdoors and spends hours and days hiking the local trails. She jogs daily, weather permits and if not, you’ll find her on the treadmill. She’s and excellent cook and an awesome friend to have.
Gerhardt Thiart - born and raised near Cape Town, South Africa.
After graduating from high school, he joined the military where he obtained the rank of 1st Lieutenant Platoon Commander in the SADF Infantry Corps with several tours under his belt.
After military, he joined a restaurant group where he met Al-Jo. AJ for short. They got married in 2003. In 2002 they became friends with André and Natalie van der Merwe, reputable and respected Siberian breeders. Gerhardt and AJ fell in love with the breed and got 3. Being working dogs, they got the carts, the scooters, harnesses, and other stuff and exercised their three Siberians on dirt farm roads under the guidance of André and Natalie.
Gerhardt was introduced to the Iditarod through André. Gerhardt ordered his first Iditarod Documentary in 2002. It was the beginning of the end. They were hooked. Gerhardt told his wife that he wants to do the Iditarod “one day”.
Pursuing their Iditarod dream, they packed their bags, jumped the cliff, and came to the United States in 2010 where they worked as handlers at a sled dog kennel in Michigan. To add more weight and credibility to their Green Card application, Gerhardt went back to school. Twice. In 2017 he graduated with a degree in Business Management and in 2019 he graduated with a degree in Financial Accounting. AJ graduated as a Veterinary Assistant in 2015.
They moved to Alaska in the fall of 2020. In the winter of 2021, Gerhardt did all of his three qualifiers (Copper Basin 300, Willow 300, and Denali 200) under the guidance and watchful eye of Mitch Seavey, his mentor and coach.
In 2022, a 20-year dream came true. Gerhardt ran Mitch Seavey’s puppy team. Fifty miles from Nome, his race got short winded by hurricane arctic winds and a broken ankle. His words: “I froze my ass off for 12 days and all I needed was 6 more hours. Right place, wrong time. This is the Iditarod.”
Now, Gerhardt has UNFINISHED BUSINESS for Iditarod 2023.