Founder Gene Sit

MMAF’s lead founder is Gene Sit, a remarkable man who passed away on June 24, 2008 at age 69. Although Gene was born in China, his American pride and commitment to giving back resulted in the creation of Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund. Gene’s simple idea of saying “thanks” to Minnesota service members has had a tremendous impact and is a legacy that we at MMAF are committed to continuing.

Gene’s incredible life story includes being kidnapped by Chinese gangsters and held for ransom for nine months at age seven, being sent to America at age 10, away from his mother, to a father who was ill and died soon thereafter. Relatives in Arkansas stepped in and agreed to care for Gene. He learned the language, finished 12 years of school in eight years and earned a scholarship to college.

Gene’s career began at Commonwealth Edison in Chicago, and then he spent 13 years at Investors Diversified Services before launching his own investment firm, Sit Investment Associates (SIA), in 1981 at age 42. SIA remains one of Minnesota’s largest investment management firms, managing more than $13 billion in assets. Five of Gene’s six children have worked for the firm, including his son Roger Sit, who serves as chairman and CEO.

Gene’s life experiences made him a true believer in the American dream. One of his final endeavors was launching MMAF, an undertaking that spoke directly to his love of country. MMAF is a reflection of Gene’s patriotism and deep appreciation for the sacrifices made by our Minnesota service members.

MMAF History Video


A Minnesota Effort


After the tragedy of 9/11, and as service members began serving overseas in greater numbers in the war on terror, a group patriotic Minnesotans saw a need to show appreciation to those serving to ensure that they were shown the thanks and respect they deserved. Leading the charge was Eugene Sit, a Chinese immigrant whose American pride and commitment to giving resulted in the creation of Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund (MMAF). The effort would be undertaken by the citizens of Minnesotans to show support for their fellow Minnesotans serving in the Armed Forces.

Joining Gene in his vision were business and civic leaders from both sides of the political aisle, joined in their commitment to support and appreciate Minnesota service members and their families. This included Minnesota leaders like former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John W. Vessey, Vice President Walter Mondale, Governors Arne Carlson and Wendall Anderson, Senators Rudy Boschwitz and David Durenberger along with Co-Founders Michael Gorman, Skip Krawczyk and General Dennis Schulstad.

Gene’s simple mission of saying “thanks” by giving cash grants to Minnesota service members who have served in a combat zone since 9/11 has had a tremendous impact and is a legacy that continues today. In June of 2008, MMAF Founder Eugene Sit passed away and his son Roger took over as Chair of MMAF.


High Profile Support

MMAF publicly launched in August of 2005 and held an “Appreciation Walk” to show support for service members and their families in September and a fundraising dinner in November with Senator John McCain as the keynote speaker. Author, reporter, columnist and Minnesota native, Thomas Friedman, keynoted MMAF’s second fundraising dinner. MMAF continued to draw support from high profile speakers at its fundraising dinners including best-selling author Vince Flynn, renowned NBC News Correspondent Tom Brokaw and General Stanley McChrystal.

Partnerships with Minnesota’s sports organizations were developed and MMAF awarded grants to service members on the court prior to Timberwolves and Lynx games and on the field prior to Twins, Vikings, and Saint Paul Saints games. These teams have also given away thousands of free tickets to MMAF grant recipients over the years.

More recently MMAF fundraising dinners have included Minnesota native retired Commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel as well as one of the most highly respected military leaders of his generation, former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis. Lieutenant General Michael Loh, Director of the United States Air National Guard, was also a recent keynote speaker. This past fall MMAF was fortunate to host General Paul M. Nakasone, Commander of U.S. Cyber Command, as keynote of MMAF’s annual dinner.


Flourishing Grassroots Efforts

MMAF continued to host an annual appreciation walk/run through 2019, allowing supporters to walk and run, side by side, with service members and their families and providing a day to personally say “Thanks” to Minnesota service members. In 2015, MMAF hosted The Wall That Heals, a traveling replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. at its annual walk/run as a way to say “Thanks” to veterans of all generations.

The grassroot support envisioned by Eugene Sit flourishes with many hard-working individuals and groups organizing events to raise money on behalf of MMAF. Some of MMAF’s largest and most consistent donors include the Patriot Ride, The Freedom Run, The Leech Lake Ride for Veterans and the Twin Cities River Rats. The list also includes the LPS/NML Golf Classic, the Fagen WWII Air Show, TCF Bank Employee Fundraising Campaign, TCF and Cub Foods sales of MMAF Thanks pins, Cub Foods and 7Up/Snapple donating their proceeds from sales to MMAF, and WCCO’s More Than Names campaign. The efforts of these groups have raised millions of dollars for MMAF since its inception in 2005.


Learn more about past events and fundraising initiatives on our Events Page.


The Leadership Group of MMAF

The Leadership Group of MMAF is comprised of Minnesota business and community leaders and former public officials. To ensure the integrity of MMAF’s non-partisan, non-political mission, members of the leadership group range the entire political spectrum and are not current office-holders. We are grateful for the guidance and support of these talented and dedicated individuals.

Visionary Lead Founder

Eugene C.Sit

(1938 – 2008)



Michael Gorman

Skip Krawczyk

Dennis Schulstad



Roger Sit


Founding Co-Chairs

Walter Mondale (2005-2021)

Wendell Anderson (2005-2016)

Rudy Boschwitz

Arne Carlson

David Durenberger (2005-2023)

Project Director

Joe Bennek


Board of Overseers

Al Annexstad (2005-2023)

Donald E. Benson

Burt Cohen

William Cooper (2005-2017)

Mark Davis

Jim Emison (2005-2006)

William Frenzel (2005-2014)

Linda Garrett

Tom Garrett (2007-2012)

Michael Gorman

Joan Anderson Growe

Skip Krawczyk

Whitney MacMillan (2005-2020)

Nancy McCabe

Roger McCabe

Richard McFarland

Dale Olseth (2005-2014)

Larry Perlman

Clinton Schroeder (2005-2020)

Dennis Schulstad

Roger Sit

Ralph Strangis (2005-2018)

Emily Ann Tuttle (2005-2018)

John Wernz

Wheelock Whitney (2005-2016)

Barry Winslow

Executive Director

Kelly Boston


Steering Committee

Doug Arndt

Mike Eckert

Cheri Ford

Claudine Galloway

Michael Gorman

Zach Husted

Jeff Julkowski

Skip Krawczyk

Jim Martin

Nancy McCabe

Roger McCabe

Joe Plank

Will Roach

Dennis Schulstad

Richard Schulte*

Roger Sit

Major Jackie Stenger

Barry Winslow

Jim Wolford (2013 – 2023)









(*) Honorary Member