Merrymakers was born out a belief in the positive impact of music. Area performers had been performing in nursing homes for hire on a sparse and irregular basis due to a lack of a dedicated budget.
Sandy Lemke, Interim Executive Director of Merrymakers, said the founder saw the transformative effect of his music on his audience and wanted to reach more people on a regular basis.
“Lights were going on inside these people that hadn’t been turned on in years,” Lemke said. “Something big was happening and we knew we had to grow this further.”
The Merrymakers Association began serving the seniors in nursing homes in 1986 when a local entertainer met with a group of Omaha businessmen to form an organization dedicated to bringing quality music and laughter to seniors on a regular basis.
That year, eight nursing homes were given ten performances for the year.
Slowly this dream to provide the elderly and seniors with musical entertainment began to grow. Each year, more and more residents receive the benefit of Merrymakers’ free entertainment.
Today, Merrymakers serves more than 50,000 elderly and seniors with free, musical entertainment annually.
In 2017, 140 facilities receive Merrymakers musical programming.
Merrymakers Nebraska currently serves the entire state. Visit Merrymakers Iowa to learn more about our efforts in the DesMoines area.
Merrymakers founders saw that demand for performances was growing, and that the only way to meet demand was to increase revenues. They decided on a format that was unique to the Omaha area, a roast of prominent residents. Up until 2013 with the advent of Songs & Suds, the Annual Roast was the only fundraising event. The “honorees” are as follows:
- 1991 Governor Ben Nelson
- 1992 Chancellor Del Weber
- 1993 Senator Bob Kerrey
- 1994 Mr. Chip Davis
- 1995 Dr. Lee Simmons
- 1996 Senator J. James Exon
- 1997 Mr. Walter Scott, Jr.
- 1998 Reverend Michael G. Morrison
- 1999 Mr. Bruce Lauritzen
- 2000 Mr. Michael Yanney
- 2001 Senator Chuck Hagel
- 2002 Mr. Ken Stinson
- 2003 Coach Dana Altman
- 2004 Mrs. Mary Maxwell
- 2005 Mr. Mike Fahey
- 2006 Mr. David Sokol
- 2007 Mr. Dick Holland
- 2008 Mr. Mogens Bay
- 2009 Ms. Susan Jacques
- 2010 Mr. Bruce Rasmussen
- 2011 Mr. John P. Nelson
- 2012 Mr. Sid Dinsdale
- 2013 Fr. Tom Fangman
- 2014 Ms. Cyndy Peacock
- 2015 The late Michael Simmonds
- 2016 Greg McDermott