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  • Nielsen Studios Inc

Updated: Mar 3



American Faces No. 73


World Changers. It’s a bold title but I feel it is very fitting of Dan and Sandy Adler. This wonderfully inviting and incredibly talented singing duo who helped bring the Heart of the City Music Factory to Anoka, MN have given so much of themselves. The Heart of the City Music Factory is a music and event venue etched into the community fabric of Anoka that brings in family friendly performers to entertain. When I walk into the Music Factory I feel like I am entering a Victorian mansion with warm colors, swags of fabrics and lighting fixtures that hearken back to a past era. But that is not what I mean by World Changer.


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The title World Changer starts to find its meaning when I read the title of their ministry; Heart of the City Ministries. It’s in the fact that Dan and Sandy Adler felt the call decades ago while they were worship leaders at a local church; a call for Heart of the City Worship Band to use music as a tool to unite. Since 1996, Heart of the City, has been bringing a message, model and experience of multi-ethnic worship and Biblical unity to thousands of people through live performances. They have also recorded their multi-ethnic, multi-denominational and multi-generational Heart of the City Worship Band. This heart for racial reconciliation is woven so deeply into the hearts of this wonderful duo you can hear it in almost every word they speak and in the emotions as they share of their years invested into this cry of their hearts. It’s here that I feel my title comes from. You hear it in the songs they sing like We Speak Life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuy0cTb9KTA). I also came to realize during my time with them that these two have given so much of their lives to racial reconciliation through their incredible musical gifts. In the past, they had many offers from around the country to lead worship at large churches, but felt a call to unite people here in Minnesota. Their willingness to follow an unknown path to bring people together through music may not be a rich one by worldly standards, but it has been rich with relationships across racial and socio economic barriers beyond what our human minds can comprehend.


I walked away from this American Faces story with another friend and a renewed challenge to make the world a better place. Thank you Dan and Sandy Adler for giving so much to this world.


P.S. They make a cute couple!


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  • Nielsen Studios Inc

American Faces No. 72


Dan Cooke (American Faces No.72) looks like a man born a few hundred years after his time. With a full white beard and mane of white hair, surrounded by canoeing equipment and artifacts from adventures into the world’s most remote places, Dan appears the modern equivalent of the old French fur-trading voyageurs who plied the waters of the great North American wilderness in the 1600’s.


In fact, that’s pretty near the truth. Dan has paddled and guided countless canoeing trips over 1,000s of miles of water. He’s canoed the Rio Grande on the U.S. Southern border, and 500+ miles on the Kazan River in northern Canada. Dan’s been snow-shoeing in the Yukon, backpacking in Chili and climbing on Mount Kilimanjaro. Recently, he kayaked in Antarctica, winter camped in the Boundary Waters, and rode horseback into the back-country of Yellowstone.

The early canoe explorers may have shared Dan’s feelings about traversing solo through remote wilderness. “It’s simple. No agenda other than eating, sleeping and trekking through the day,” says Dan, “My mind and body settle into a rhythm, focused on the pure physicality of moving.”

Early on, Dan’s passion for exploring the backcountry, and sharing adventures with his family and friends, spawned a home-based business that took on a life of its own.


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Like a lot of entrepreneurial ventures, Dan’s business began with solving a problem through some creative boot-strapping – in this case, almost literally. Dan and his wife Karen, working together in the early 1970’s at the Adventurous Christians camp (now Covenant Pines) on the Gunflint Trail needed better canoe packs for their guided trips. Working with hand tools, Dan pieced together locally-sourced canvass material and straps of old boot leather to make four custom portaging packs, and Cooke’s Custom Sewing (CCS) was born. Today, CCS makes 20+ models of packs and various tarping systems and shelters, canoe covers, snowshoeing mukluks, plus other canoeing and camping equipment – all retailing online and distributed wholesale through a number of outdoor recreation stores.Each pack and piece of gear is built for practical functionality and back-country toughness, with a lifetime of adventure experience stitched into every one.

Dan decided to retire from his 20+ year career as a mechanical engineering technician a few years ago after Karen, his wife and adventuring partner, passed away. He now devotes more of his time to the CCS business, creating more adventure memories with friends, and going solo into the wilderness.

Dan says of solo canoeing, “It’s pure – your paddle is the single connection point. There’s nothing but you and the boat, finding harmony with the wind, the waves and the current.”

Dan first learned to love paddling and adventure at an early age, camping with his parents in the Minnesota North country and in the Pacific Northwest, at summer camps as a kid, and later working up on the Gunflint Trail, guiding canoe trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area and other back-country lakes and rivers.

He says it’s never too late to start your own adventure.

Dan’s advice for anyone striking out on their own to start an outdoor recreation business is essentially the same advice he’d probably give anyone approaching any new adventure: do it for the joy of the experience.

“If you’re starting a manufacturing business to support your passion, don’t let the work consume you. Stay out there doing what you love,” says Dan, “Keep trying to find that impossible balance. Don’t give up the adventure.”

Not everyone will – or could even possibly – see and do everything Dan has done, but he says everyone’s journey is unique. And adventuring with an experienced guide is the best way to start.

“Get out there. Let your guide worry about the details. Enjoy the experience, be in the moment. Appreciate where you are,” Dan says, “Whether it’s canoeing the Boundary Waters, or winter camping in your backyard, your adventure is yours.”


Written by: Scott Whitman

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  • Nielsen Studios Inc



American Faces #71


This story is about a streetwise kid who grew up to build a successful decades-long career. David Foy was a rambunctious, overzealous kid with more energy than he knew what to do with. But he also had a passion for life and a huge untamed heart. Maybe that’s what makes this such a fascinating story to me. It’s about a guy who eventually experienced love and redemption, which profoundly influenced the man he is today.

David still has that same passion, and a huge heart. He’s driven by integrity and strives to make a difference in the world – through his successful realty business, through his family and in his community. But David’s trajectory early in life would not have predicted his current path.

David’s early years were tough, with a fractured family and a constantly changing housing situation. His mom had a rough go of it even before he and his sister came along, and she continued to make life decisions that made things even more difficult for all of them. But all along the way, caring people helped David and his sister, Bonnie, navigate their turbulent childhood to become people living lives very different from the chaos they experienced growing up.


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David will be the first to say that his loving foster family, and the love and support of his wife, changed the course of his life. David will also tell you he is the man he is because of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that started at Camp Shamineau when he was just 12 years old. His story is about those relationships, and about all the people who believed in him and invested in his life – his sister, his foster parents, social workers, teachers, good people on the street, an amazing wife, kids, friends, coworkers and the list goes on.


Daivd and his wife Heidi of 41 years are now blessed with a big family, including several adopted children (and also many grandchildren). Their heart for adoption is in part fueled by David’s own story – a past in which he learned what it meant to be accepted by a family that loves him unconditionally. Every one of their children are loved and cherished, no matter their past or the challenges that come with it.


This isn’t meant to toot David’s horn, but I think it’s important to shine some light on the fact that some people might think this man’s incredibly hard life would be a reasonable excuse to hold things close, be protective, maybe even be a little selfish. Who would blame him, really? But having known and watched David for over 20 years, I can truly say he has a huge heart for people. He’s helped so many others in so many ways that it’s hard to describe. He lives life boldly and unapologetically, and with love and energy to spare.


So, my take-away on this story with David? In a world where humanity seems a little rough around the edges there are people like David, who’ve known joy, sorrow and everything in between who use their own experience to speak truth and love and transform others’ lives. We all have life experiences that have shaped us. If you think about it, that means each of us has the potential to be a world-changer too.


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