Meet the Churchill Wild Family
Mike’s role in Churchill Wild is twofold; he oversees the future direction of Churchill Wild and is the Ultimate Outdoorsman. His love for all things created led him north after high school to realize his dream of becoming a wilderness guide and outfitter. And realize it he did! Mike is an invaluable asset in the bush. He has paddled, hiked, boated, flown over, dog sledded, snowmobiled, and explored over 100,000 square miles of the subarctic land he loves. Mike is a jack-of-all-trades and master of all. The leadership and management that Mike and Jeanne have provided at the lodges has undoubtedly created the repeat business Churchill Wild is famous for.
Jeanne is the consummate hostess for Churchill Wild, and also happens to be an incredible chef with an extensive pedigree in the luxury lodge business. Jeanne’s parents founded Webber’s Lodges, and her skills in creating the ultimate home away from home for guests were acquired from early childhood. Her commitment to guest comfort has been unwavering ever since.
Jeanne’s cooking skills are legendary, and an invitation to her table is never turned down. The Arctic culinary sensations that guests experience inside our lodges are as memorable for our guests as their first encounters with the polar bears outside our lodges.
The blend of her husband Mike’s dreams and ambitions combined with Jeanne’s attention to detail has resulted in the ultimate wilderness experience, and Churchill Wild’s four remote ecolodges have become THE destination for wildlife enthusiasts around the world who are eager to hike the tundra and see polar bears and beluga whales in their natural environment, all while being wined and dined in elegantly Arctic fashion.
He spent a few summers as a do-whatever-needs-to-be-done employee, learning the ins and outs of remote lodge operations, customer service, and family-run businesses.
His own family owned a kitchen and bath company and that soon became his focus. He dove into learning that business, working in the shop, scheduling projects, and crunching numbers in the accounting department. After graduating from the Asper School of Business with an honours degree in finance, Adam continued adding to his responsibilities in the company until ultimately becoming CEO in 2015.
Through his longstanding relationship with Mike and Jeanne Reimer, Adam learned of the opportunity to come be a part of the Churchill Wild team, and after nearly a year of preparations to ensure both businesses would prosper from the move, it all become a reality at the beginning of 2021.
Adam lives just outside Winnipeg with his wife, who he says is the smartest person he knows, and their children Alicia and Owen. He loves nothing more than spending time with friends and family in the great outdoors, making him an excellent fit for our team!
Shari graduated from Business Administration at Red River Community College in 1991, then began working for her parents’ company, Webber’s Lodges, performing all the various jobs needed to run their northern lodges. Without doubt, this experience has made her the asset she is today. In 1994 Shari moved from Churchill to Thompson and job-shared the role of Director of Finance and Administration at the YWCA with sister Toni.
Shari continued to spend summers at the lodges while raising her four children and by 1997, she returned to the family business as bookkeeper. After moving to Alberta in 2004, she began helping her mom, Helen, and Helen’s best friend Marie, by processing orders for their Blueberries and Polar Bears cookbook series.
In 2009, she joined the Churchill Wild management team and Shari’s role has been evolving ever since. In addition to her office responsibilities, Shari manages North Knife Lake in summer.
Whether it is watching the company grow or the changing tides of the Hudson Bay, Shari enjoys being a part of something so magical in the Canadian North.
As an adult, Toni has operated/managed North Knife Lake Wilderness Lodge, served on the board of Travel Manitoba, owned and operated several successful businesses, and was the CFO of the YWCA in Thompson, Manitoba, among other accomplishments.
Toni was our CEO from 2017 through 2020 and now serves as leadership development coach and overall mentor for the team. These days, she’s busy pursuing her passion for lifelong learning and personal development through Soulaia, a natural health and wellness company she started with her three daughters and one of their close friends.
Toni is a Certified Myers-Briggs Practitioner and an exemplary leader. Her commitment to personal and professional development have been indispensable to us, and we’re happy she’s making time to continue supporting us in this capacity.
Officially, Nolan has been with us since 2008, when he started part-time as a lodge manager, joining his wife Doreen on the Churchill Wild team. In 2013, we brought him on board full-time in his current role.
His early work background guiding beluga whale tours for a company in Churchill, working construction and dabbling in electrical lends itself well to his current role. In his teen years he did odd jobs repairing snowmobiles and cars. And later in life worked for MTS on communications systems, all which make him well suited for his career at Churchill Wild.
Shortly after Nolan joined the company, Mike and Jeanne purchased our newest and most remote property, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. Nolan was the brains—and some of the brawn—behind Nanuk’s rebuild, which spanned two seasons. Nanuk is a beautifully designed lodge and Nolan’s proudest professional accomplishment.
He’s currently focused on learning all he can about power systems so that he can quadruple our capacity for solar power. In the off-season, he plans renovations and enhancements that will improve the guests’ overall Churchill Wild experience.
Despite all the logistical and operational challenges that come with running remote northern lodges, when asked about his career and which job has been his favourite, there’s no hesitation. “This one.”
She was between jobs when asked about joining the team. With no training, Doreen jumped into the job mid-season. Her background in finance allowed her to turn it into a model of efficiency while providing highly personal service. Today, Doreen and her team manage nearly 800 bookings each season and still make time to treat each guest like family.
Doreen is a model ambassador for Churchill Wild, spending her days helping guests find their perfect itinerary, and explaining how we safely walk with polar bears, something she’s grateful to be able to do herself — though that wasn’t always the case. When she started with the company, Doreen often relied on a wheelchair, due to undiagnosed rheumatoid arthritis. In 2009, her doctors started her on a regimen that allowed her to leave the wheelchair behind and live the dream of walking with polar bears.
Doreen’s favourite place to visit is Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge alongside Nolan and their two boys, Caden and Shelby. Her time at Nanuk is reminiscent of the early days of their marriage when they lived in the Yukon and spent weekends camping, fishing and savouring the great outdoors. Being able to watch guests experience their first moment on ground level with a polar bear is something she cherishes most in her job with Churchill Wild.
Courtney spends her time in the office answering guests’ inquiries, confirming all the details required for a perfect safari, organizing guests’ pre-trip packages, prepping for sales conferences, and ensuring smooth sailing throughout our safari season. She also often hosts our welcome dinners in Winnipeg, being the first point of contact our guests have with Churchill Wild.
To satisfy her creativity and balance out the detail-oriented administrative side of her brain, Courtney spends a lot of time indulging her love of the arts. A dancer for many years, Courtney now focuses on other creative outlets such as jewelry making and music.
Growing up, her summers were spent on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, which is where she developed a love for all the beauty that Manitoba has to offer. This led her to pursue a degree in Tourism Management from Red River College so that she could share her passion for the province with visitors from around the world.
Courtney has a gentle heart for all animals and a love for all critters practically oozes out of her, particularly when it comes to dogs — and, of course, polar bears. Her favourite experience with Churchill Wild was seeing her first polar bear in the wild. “To walk in harmony with the largest land carnivore on earth was without a doubt the most magical moment of my life,” Courtney says.
Sue can always be counted on to create flow and harmony throughout the company and this is invaluable during our busy season. It’s no surprise that multitasking and adaptability are two of her strengths, but it’s her creativity and cheerful demeanour that make her an irreplaceable team member.
After being a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful girls for more than 12 years, Sue went back to school to study graphic design, something we benefitted from when redesigning our logo, while creating print and digital ads, and throughout countless other projects.
During her third year with Churchill Wild, Sue travelled to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge and had her first polar bear encounter. Even after the thousands of photos she’s seen come across her desk, the real thing still left her speechless.
Nicole joined the Churchill Wild team in 2018, and alongside Ben, they create the ideal balance of work and play. Keeping staff and guests happy is not always an easy task, but she handles it well.
Nicole has a true heart for the wilderness. She loves the absolute remoteness of the lodge and the feeling that you’re the only one who has ever stood in that place. “The landscape is breathtaking and is constantly changing. Watching the tide change what the coastline looks like is incredible.”
“The first time I saw a polar bear I couldn’t believe that this was my life; that I would get to enjoy this privilege on a daily basis. Watching the bears in their natural habitat is indescribable and really reminds me that we are insignificant beings in comparison,” Nicole says.
Ever active, she lives for anything that gets her outdoors and, in the off-season, enjoys snowboarding in Alberta and surfing with Ben in Australia.
He began his working career in hospitality in small cafes, but soon sought more of a challenge and began serving in the Australian Army for five years, working primarily as a parachute rigger. He later certified as a personal trainer, wanting to help people reach their goals and find a healthier way to live life. His iron will is an inspiration to all of us! One of the few people not tempted by Churchill Wild’s divine desserts, he leads by example and doesn’t eat sweets. However, it’s been witnessed that he is still a lover of food and fully enjoys pizza, pasta and everything else delicious in the savoury world.
His love of an active and adventurous life led him to run a gym on a cruise ship for a year, and then to working in remote mining sites across Australia. When he met Nicole, they moved on to working and managing high end lodges across Canada and Australia.
What made him look to working with Churchill Wild? “I never thought I would get to see a polar bear in the wild so we couldn’t pass up the chance to work with Churchill Wild. I love how remote the lodges are and the challenges that come with it,” he says.
After studying Law and Psychology in university, Bella began working as an outdoor education instructor in Ottawa where she brought students out into a wilderness classroom. Bella continued guiding throughout Canada, Svalbard and Antarctica on expedition vessels, in addition to multi-day self supported trips. Bella has also worked as a sales representative for polar expeditions. One of the best parts of working in the outdoor industry is the delight she derives from connecting to and learning from people from all around the world.
Joining the Churchill Wild team in 2017 was something Bella had dreamed of as it would get her up close with polar bears and the other iconic wildlife of northern Manitoba. Having the time to simply watch the bears’ movements and behaviours is enthralling — and unique — to Churchill Wild.
While not working, Bella is an avid trail runner, canoeist, climber and loves cooking with her partner, Paul, and their dog, Naili Cho, around their home in Ontario.
Andy took the job with Churchill Wild thinking he’d be working exclusively with polar bears and beluga whales. Over the years, however, he’s also had the opportunity to walk among black bears, wolves, moose, woodland caribou and other Arctic critters. Andy is a part of developing new safaris and works as a citizen scientist, perhaps his favourite part of the job, apart from wildlife encounters.
Prior to becoming a wildlife guide, Andy spent three years working in marine science and, throughout that time, spent a year in the field working on and off a research vessel.
Andy loves being able to meet people from around the world and hear their stories. He jumps at opportunities to visit guests in their homeland, the most recent of which included invitations to view tigers in India and to observe an unphotographed population of brown bears in Slovakia.
Andy’s biggest adventure in his career is either wrangling belugas in Hudson Bay, catching crocodiles in Belize, or nearly floating away on a pan of ice while working in the high Arctic.
Terry works almost nonstop for five months. He wakes up early to check for wildlife and helps develop the day’s itinerary. He leads excursions morning and afternoon, and frequently gives evening presentations. Then, he periodically wakes up during the night to rouse guests if the aurora is dancing.
He credits his parents for his love of the outdoors. His dad took him camping and fishing and his mom encouraged him to learn about the things he loves. This is probably why he’s got what he calls a “self-taught master’s degree in Life in the Arctic.”
As a naturalist, Terry is well versed on the geography, geology, plants, birds and wildlife of northern Manitoba. There’s not a plant at Seal River Heritage Lodge that Terry can’t identify; he’s even found two species that were undocumented for the area.
He has an extreme profession, but he spends the off-season honing his golf game and gardening at his Vancouver Island home—a home that he built. There, he recharges his batteries alongside his wife Kirsten of 14 years and their two dogs.
Derek dabbled in the sciences for nearly a decade, combining his boundless curiosity for critters with opportunities to explore landscapes abroad. He has been fortunate enough to have participated in avian and wildlife research projects in Australia, Mexico and the western provinces of Canada.
For the last fifteen years however, Derek has been a full time Interpretative Guide/Naturalist, blissfully immersed in his bipolar passions. He is invigorated and excited by the prospect of soulful interaction with other wildlife enthusiasts and the privilege to learn from and meet new people from around the world.
Originally from Manitoba, Steve now lives on a remote island in British Columbia where he’s building himself an off-grid cabin, kayaking, running zodiacs, and leading grizzly bear and whale watching tours.
Steve has lived a global life, leading history, photography and painting tours. His adventurous pursuits have allowed him to guide on the barrier reef cays, the whitewater rivers of Belize, and along the picturesque coast of New Zealand. In addition to his time spent in Canada with polar bears, Steve also runs trips to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.
Steve’s personal pursuits run the gamut from wildlife photography and conservation to ice hockey (he’s a member of his local team, the “Quadra Island Old Growth”), from sailing his own 30-ft boat to skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking. Just to mx things up, occasionally he’ll plan somewhat warmer holidays for sunshine and surfing.
One might wonder what continues to excite someone who lives such an adventurous life. The answer, Steve says, is being able to share his knowledge of Hudson Bay’s history and ecosystems and interpreting the behaviour of polar bears for fellow adventure travelers from around the world.
Over the last couple of years, Jody has worked hard obtaining the necessary qualification to be a polar bear guide, the role she now fills. Previous experience as both a grizzly guide with the Commercial Bear Viewing Association and as a kayak guide have been integral to her success with us.
Born and raised just south of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Jody was regularly exposed to the northern lights, but seeing them in the wide-open skies above Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is her favourite Churchill Wild moment. It was a visceral experience for her, the waves of light appearing so close she could almost reach out and touch them.
Jody’s favourite part of being a guide for us is observing a guest’s face the moment “the wild takes them.” That moment of surrender where regular life falls away and responsibilities are forgotten, if even just for a few days. She believes (and we agree!) that the wild waits in us all.
When not fulfilling one of her guiding roles, Jody considers herself a full-time auntie, splitting her time between Vancouver Island and southern Manitoba. She loves singing—particularly Stevie Nicks—hiking, surfing, and enjoying the great outdoors.
In 2016, Allison started a two-year program for Business Administration, majoring in marketing and working for Churchill Wild during her summer breaks as an HR and marketing assistant. After graduating, Allison joined the team full time in early 2019. She splits her time between working in our head office for the first half of the year and expediting in Churchill from July through November.
According to Alli, standing on the shores of Hudson Bay with a cup of hot chocolate in her hand, watching the northern lights dance is one of the best incentives she could ask for in a job. (Don’t worry, we pay her too.)
Allison loves to spend her downtime traveling, hiking and exploring alongside her husband, Jason and their dog, Kita.
A man of many talents, he spent his first full season with Churchill Wild as part of the maintenance team at the age of 15. It only took one summer to catch the Hudson-Bay-bug and become hooked on northern life. It was also around this time that he caught the love-bug and began pursuing a relationship with Karli. While still in high school, he studied culinary arts and continued to spend summers working at the lodges.
Riley’s career with Churchill Wild and his relationship with Karli blossomed over the next five years. He continued to hone his talents, working alongside Karli in the kitchens at both Nanuk and Seal River, and helping with construction projects in the off-season.
In 2013, Riley and Karli got married, and his focus has since shifted to carpentry and after studying the craft, he took an apprenticeship in Germany. While in the land of bratwurst and beer, he developed an appreciation for their emphasis on seasonal eating.
Now back in Manitoba, that appreciation has become a passion for regenerative gardening and horticulture. In 2019, Riley launched Prairie Wild, a sustainable orchard and produce farm located in southern Manitoba, founded on the principle of holistic small-scale agriculture.
We’re very excited to incorporate the fruits of Riley’s labours into our culinary tradition and look forward to seeing this enterprise blossom.