Sauna Campaign in the USA
It was early 90s, around 1991-1993 when three Finnish organizations, The Foreign Trade Association, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Consulate General in New York launched a sauna campaign in the USA. Three sauna manufacturers, Amerec, Saunatec (Helo/ Finnleo) and Harvia took part in the campaign, which was considered successful.
North American Sauna Society Established
In the late 90s discussions started anew whether to repeat the campaign format or do something different. Work with the original campaign had brought Kalevi Ruuska (Finnish Foreign Trade Association), Ilkka Kalliomaa (New York Consulate General) and Keith Raisanen (Saunatec) together, but now Kalevi Ruuska had immigrated to the US and started his own sauna dealership in Fishkill, NY. It was at this point when Eero Kilpi joined the discussions and instead of a campaign, North American Sauna Society was established in 2004.
Defending Classic Sauna
We got off to a good start and among the dignitaries attending our kick-off in New York City were Ambassador Osmo Lipponen and former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari. The original mission was to defend the classic sauna bathing style against the overwhelming infrared room invasion that was taking place. Unlike Germany, there was no rule in the US not to call infrared rooms a sauna and the general publics’ understanding of what sauna bathing was, started to get very blurry. We didn’t want to especially stress the Finnish aspect of sauna bathing, but at some point understood that it was still an important factor in our effort to explain the type of sauna that we had taken on to promote.
The Society Today
The two officers from the start were Kalevi Ruuska as President and Eero Kilpi as Vice President. The idea was to gather funding so that maybe one day a week would be paid non-profit work for the officers. While this has not happened, we have stayed onboard albeit with a swap in positions a couple of years back. Third founder and constant board member has been Keith Raisanen, now with TyloHelo.