Bemidji’s Julie Vollen honored for community contributions to BHS sports

At the Bemidji High School Athletics Hall of Fame banquet on May 9, Vollen was honored with the Lumberjack Award for several years’ worth of contributions to BHS sports programs. But for her, supporting the Lumberjacks has simply been a way of life.

Julie Vollen, this year's Lumberjack Award winner, has helped out with Bemidji High School athletics for many years -- during and after her son's athletic career.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Julie Vollen was not expecting to receive the Lumberjack Award.

At the Bemidji High School Athletics Hall of Fame banquet on May 9, Vollen was honored with the award for several years’ worth of contributions to BHS sports programs. But for her, supporting the Lumberjacks has simply been a way of life.

“At the banquet, I was just kind of surprised,” Vollen said. “I didn't really have anything prepared. But living in this community all my life, for the most part, I just wanted to make a difference. And I wanted my kids to see me do that.”

The annual award is presented annually to a person or business that has continuously contributed to Lumberjack sports, typically without compensation or recognition. Vollen’s son Alex has spurred her behind-the-scenes work with Bemidji athletics to help her fit that bill.

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Julie Vollen, center, poses with Troy and Sue Hendricks after receiving the 2022 Lumberjack Award on May 9, 2022, at Bemidji High School.

Alex played in the Bemidji Bombers youth basketball program, then continued with football and track at BHS. He was even on the 4x800 relay team that won the state championship in 2017.


And Julie Vollen was more than along for the ride, often spearheading fundraising efforts for sports Alex participated in – and some he did not.

“I did track as the president of track for five years,” Vollen said. “And then at the same time, I helped with football for 10 years, because I continued with football after my son graduated.”

She and her husband Harry also started a youth curling program, and Vollen was involved with fundraising for the Bombers. But it was her contributions to BHS athletics that she was honored for, and they have been numerous.

“She filled in so many roles for us,” said activities director Troy Hendricks. “Not only when her son played high school sports, but after high school sports were done (for him). … You always knew it was going to be done correctly and with good intent (when she was involved).”

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Julie Vollen, right, enters Marima Seely's long jump distance as she volunteers at the Bemidji Invite on Monday, May 23, 2022, at the high school.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Vollen knows she couldn’t have done it alone, and she praised many others in the Bemidji community that have lent their support over the years.

“It's not just me,” Vollen said. “I just was kind of the organizer. And I've made many great friendships, and there's many other people that were instrumental and helped out.”

That includes Hendricks and his wife, Sue, who aided Vollen with fundraising for football. In the present day, Vollen appreciates Hendricks’ desire to ensure kids are participating in sports at the high school level.

“Troy has been instrumental in his whole philosophy of kids participating in things,” Vollen said. “And it was tough during COVID. I think all of a sudden, the atmosphere changed and then people got away from maybe putting their kids in things.”


Hendricks, meanwhile, appreciates Vollen’s ability to follow through on her commitments – something that isn’t always a given when soliciting volunteers.

“Whenever you get volunteer help that takes the approach of, ‘This is my job and I'm going to do it to the best of my ability,’ it’s irreplaceable,” Hendricks said. “You just don't see people who will do that on a regular basis. Many people will volunteer for something, but very few people will do it to the level that you would like. She always went over and above the call of duty and did it to perfection.”

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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