SAM Board Spotlight: Kristy Beissler

Next up on our SAM Board spotlight, we have none other than our amazing chairperson herself, Kristy Beissler! Kristy not only has a loving heart for Sunbeam, she is also a very strong woman with a bright vision for Sunbeam.

Each board member were given questions about their Sunbeam story. Below are Kristy’s thoughtful responses.

1. How long have you been part of the SAM Board and what position do you hold?

I have been a member of the SAM board for three years.  This past year I was elected to the position of Chairman.

2. How long and when did you start becoming part of Sunbeam?

Mel Harmon and I became friends thru church and when she went back to work, I had the pleasure of taking care of her kiddos.  She always found ways to weave her Sunbeam stories into conversations.  As a family we began to support Sunbeam thru donations and finally, we decided it was time to go.  My oldest daughter, Abbey and I went on our first trip in 2012 with follow up trips in 2013, 2014 and 2015 with one or both of our oldest girls.  The summer of 2016 was the year my husband, David and son, Aaron got to go along.  This summer will be the year our youngest daughter Amelia will go.  Sunbeam is a place we all love and now, with all of us having had the Sunbeam experience, is a common thread that ties us to a larger Sunbeam family.

3. Reason why you are on the Board?

Why am I on the board?   I do not wonder why…God of course!  He calls us to live out His life purpose for His kingdom.  Those of us on the board come from all different walks of life and different seasons of life, but the tie that binds us together is a love for Sunbeam, for the boys and staff that are Sunbeam.  God asks us to “go” and He desires us to trust Him.  That looks different for everyone, but we feel unequipped and fearful.  Whether that is saying “yes” to going to Sunbeam or saying “yes” to a position on the SAM board, putting our trust, hope and faith that God will equip us with just what we need…and if it is God’s will, there will be fruit.

4. What do you hope to achieve in being part of the SAM Board?

As a SAM board member, my main goal is to share the Sunbeam story.  To let people know about this little place in Gutter’s corner where God is at work…in the boys, staff, community and teams that visit it, as well as people who continually pray for Sunbeam.  I also desire for us to work well with the staff at Sunbeam as well as our JAM board members in Jamaica.  God’s work is always a team effort and we are so thankful for our Sunbeam staff and JAM board.

5. Favorite memory about Sunbeam?

I love to look out at the backyard at Sunbeam…team members, staff, boys all coming together and sharing time in activities, sports, work projects or crafts and feeling God’s hand in all the details big and small.  I do it every trip and it just amazes me at God’s goodness.

We thank Kristy for her continued love and support to the Sunbeam mission. We are so lucky to have you as our chairperson! Thank you!

Spotlight: The Face Behind Sunbeam’s Social Media and Website

I have so much enjoyed working and being in charge of Sunbeam’s social media, that I thought it was time to introduce myself. I am not one for the “spotlight” to be on me, but I enjoy sharing my Sunbeam story with all of you.

My name is Maureen McCarthy. I am 23 years old and recently graduated from Winona State with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation. Here is my Sunbeam story:

My journey with Sunbeam started during my sophomore year in college at Winona State University. I always had my mind set on either studying abroad or doing a travel study sometime during my college career. I was in the middle of switching my major to Special Education then and I came across a 10-day travel study trip that the department had over spring break that was going to Jamaica. This travel study trip goal was to learn more about the educational systems in a different country and building relationships with the boys at Sunbeam.

To be honest, I had no idea what called me to go but I decided to take a risk and sign up! Even today, I look back and I think “what was I thinking before I signed up, that’s totally not like me.”

Wow, all I could say after my first trip was “when can I go back!” it may sound cliché but I came back a different person based on my experience. I not only grew as a person, I broke out of my comfort zone, created relationships with my team members and leaders, and gained a new perspective on life. I had been bitten by the “Sunbeam bug”.

I wanted to stay involved with Sunbeam as much as possible, so I reached out to Mel. I attended the Sunbeam Celebrations, I talked at future travel study meetings about the impact this trip had on me and so on. But through all of this, I wanted more.

In the summer of 2015, myself, two girls from my travel study trip and another college student traveled back down to Sunbeam for the second time. This time, I broke out of my comfort zone even more and decided to stay a month. I gained further connections with the both the boys and staff. I got to see more of Jamaica and be part of the Sunbeam family. I will hold that summer and the memories in my heart forever.

Since that summer, I have remained involved with Sunbeam through many different ways. A friend and myself started a little business selling inspirational quote plaques to fundraise for Sunbeam and raised around $1,200. I helped design the celebration invites, Christmas ornaments, and take pictures. Most recently, I was elected to the SAM Board as one of the youngest members. I am currently the secretary and in charge of all social medias and the website. I also recently just came back from my third trip to Sunbeam! I made a spur of the moment decision and took a place on a team for a member that was no longer able to go. So good to get back to Sunbeam for a week!

I always thought that the only way I could be part of Sunbeam was going there on trips. But I am so happy to continue my love for Sunbeam here in the states. If you would have asked me years ago if I would of saw myself continue to travel to Jamaica to a boys home, I would have said no way. But now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sunbeam and the people I have met along the way have truly changed me for the better. The memories I have made will last a lifetime. To just name a few of my favorite memories: having nightly dance parties with the boys when teams weren’t there, walking down to Gutter’s everyday with Kevel to get snacks and just walk around. Working in the Learning Center with the boys, attending youth group, spending time with the staff, and my favorite; going back to Sunbeam the three times and seeing certain boys grow up into young men. I could go on forever, but this post is already long enough.

I truly want to thank all of you that support Sunbeam. If that is either here in the states or in Jamaica. Sunbeam is possible because of YOU! Thank you to the staff for all you do for the boys and thank you SAM Board for your ongoing dedication, thank you.

One of my favorite things is hearing people’s Sunbeam stories. So breaking out of my comfort zone to share mine hopefully inspired others to share theirs. I love sharing the blog posts, so if you would like to share your story, contact me! I am always looking for more Sunbeam Spotlights for the website. Please feel free to email me at

Thank you,

Maureen McCarthy

Sunbeam Family Spotlight: Pooh & Marla

Who better to start out our first volunteer spotlight then the two that have been at it since the beginning, Pooh and Marla Walker! These two have done so much more than transporting teams, they have grown to find a family in team members and Sunbeam staff.

It all started back in the late 1989’s, early 1990’s. Pooh was already in the transportation business, when one of his friends approached him about an opportunity. This friend of Pooh’s lived close to the original founder of Sunbeam, Paster Cedric Lue. It was then that Paster Lue approached Pooh’s friend looking for someone that would be willing to transport teams. Pooh gladly excepted this opportunity, and after his first time transporting a team, Pastor Lue asked Pooh if he would like to be the designated driver for teams. As Marla said, “the rest is history.”

At the time Pooh started transporting teams, Marla had just given birth to her youngest child and started accompanying Pooh transporting teams in 2002. At the time Pooh started transporting teams, Sunbeam was not at its current location. It was actually just down the road from the current location in Spring Village. Marla stated that one of the first teams that was transported by them was St. Cloud in Minnesota.

Marla talks kindly about her reflection of her journey with Sunbeam and transporting teams. From meeting many people, to gaining a new family, along with seeing people grow up throughout the years. “Over the many years we have met and become friends with a lot of persons, some of whom had stopped coming like our dear friend Fred who recently passed away. We have met some who were kids and grown up before our eyes, have gotten married and have kids of their own like Mel Harmon and Tracy Jeremiahson. It’s been a wonderful journey and the friendships we’ve made have been our greatest reward.”

When Marla was diagnosed with breast cancer, she truly felt the love and dedication of team members that helped her through her battle. “I understand what love feels like when the teams, without hesitation offered help when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2015 and the treatments which followed.”

Marla concludes her final thoughts on her experience with teams and Sunbeam into simply “we have so much to be thankful for. It’s a great feeling when you just love what you do and we really love the teams and the boys of Sunbeam.”

Also, we cannot forget about their wonderful grandson Mark Anthony who always has a smile on his face! You can truly see the love that both Pooh and Marla have for him in their eyes.

We are so thankful and grateful for such caring and generous people like Pooh and Marla. They are a vital part in the overall operation of Sunbeam, and we could not be more thankful for them.

Please feel free to share your favorite memories with Pooh and Marla and thank them for their ongoing service and commitment to Sunbeam!

Coming Soon: Volunteer/Team Member Spotlight

With an unbelievable positive response from our first two SAM Board spotlights, we thought we would also start a volunteer/group/team/team member spotlight. We all know Sunbeam wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for all of YOU! If you would like to shine a “spotlight” on someone you feel has had a positive impact on Sunbeam or would like to share more about your personal journey with Sunbeam, let us know!

Let us know how long you have been involved with Sunbeam. What called you to Sunbeam. What YOU hope to do for the future of Sunbeam. What are some special stories or fun memories you have had at Sunbeam. Share with us anything you would like!

We are all one family, so what’s better than to learn more about the special people that have been part of Sunbeam!

Email information and any pictures to share to Maureen at

SAM Board Spotlight: Mel Harmon

With an unbelievable response to our first spotlight story, we continue on with our Team Coordinator Mel Harmon!

Mel Harmon has been part of Sunbeam off and on since the very beginning. She is currently the Team Coordinator and helps maintain the communication between Sunbeam and those here in the U.S. Mel is a vital part of the overall operation of Sunbeam.

Mel first came to discover Sunbeam back in January of 1997. She was part of a mission team with her home church back then Peace Lutheran of New London, MN. She felt such a strong pull to Sunbeam that she returned with her mother, Executive Director Sherry Bigalke in November of 1997. It was their church Peace Lutheran that introduced them both to Sunbeam.

Mel had no idea that this simple mission trip would lead her to her to where she is today. Mel comments “I went to Sunbeam once thinking it was a neat experience,- never expecting to continue to be involved 20 years later.  Praise God for this opportunity.”

When asked why Mel continues her work for Sunbeam with the SAM Board, she stated “I am on the Board because of God’s call to serve and my love for the Sunbeam family.” Mel also comments on what she hopes to continue to bring to the SAM Board: “My hope by serving on the board is to always follow God’s desires- this ministry isn’t about what I want.  Rather, God needs to lead the way.”

Just like her mother, she has endless memories of Sunbeam over her many years. When asked to pick just a few, Mel says “Oh I have countless memories throughout my 20 years of traveling to Sunbeam; sitting outside on the picnic table at night to watch the stars with the boys, playing hours of basketball each evening, washing dishes for what seemed like hours in the hot kitchen, giving the boys bedtime hugs, watching the boys grow and change.”

In conclusion, Mel adds “I would like to add that because of Sunbeam, I have created a family in Jamaica, but also a family across the states by meeting and working with the most servant-heart, faithful team members.  I am beyond blessed.”

We are all beyond blessed to have Mel part of the Sunbeam mission. We are so appreciative of her constant work and dedication!

SAM Board Spotlight: Sherry Bigalke

Sunbeam’s overall operation wouldn’t be possible without our wonderful board members both here in the U.S. and those in Jamaica. Keep an eye out for a spotlight of each member and learn more about their constant commitment and dedication to Sunbeam.

We start our first spotlight is with none other than Sunbeam Executive Director Sherry Bigalke! Sherry has been part of Sunbeam since its inception in 2000. She first came to know Sunbeam back in November of 1997 when she went on her first trip with her daughter, Team Coordinator Mel Harmon. It was on this trip that Sherry had a vision of a bright future for Sunbeam and the boys there. It was also during this trip that she felt God’s call to become a coordinator of mission teams even before there was an official organization. In 2000, Sherry was approached with others about purchasing and operating Sunbeam. Today, Sherry says the reason she continues to be part of Sunbeam and the board is “God’s calling and my desire to help make Sunbeam be a safe, loving, caring, Christian home for boys.”

Sherry first started her journey with Sunbeam though her home church back then, Peace Lutheran of New London MN, but still continues with her current home church of Faith Lutheran in Little Falls MN.

When asked, What do you hope to achieve in being part of the SAM Board? Sherry commented simply, “educate and share God’s plan for Sunbeam.”

Sherry cannot sum up all her favorite memories of Sunbeam but some that stick out are  reading in the dorms to the boys at bedtime, staying up playing cards with the older boys, popping popcorn, sharing stories and sharing many times of laughter and tears.

We thank Sherry for her continue commitment to Sunbeam and we are truly honored to have her!