The Super Bowl celebrates elite athletes, but those organizing the big game in Minneapolis are aiming to build a lasting legacy of health and fitness for Minnesota’s children.
The Super Bowl Host Legacy Fund has already given away $1.5 million to build and renovate parks, athletic fields, playgrounds and community gardens across the state. The nonprofit Dream of Wild Health, a 10-acre organic farm in Hugo that teaches Indian teens about agriculture and nutrition, became the most recent recipient of Legacy Fund support when it collected a $50,000 grant last week to renovate its teaching kitchen.
“The mission is to reclaim our traditional lifeways and health. It’s about reclaiming our diet,” said Joy Persall, co-director of Dream of Wild Health. She said the grant will allow the group to expand its program and offer more cooking classes.
“It was a big surprise,” Persall said. “It’s a gift we pray for.”
The NFL contributed $1 million to the $4 million fund, and the rest has come from Minnesota businesses, foundations and community groups. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community contributed the money to the Legacy Fund for the Dream of Wild Health grant.
“We are focused on the health and wellness of kids and family,” said Dana Nelson, vice president of legacy and community partnerships with the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee. “Long after the game is played, kids and families will be able to enjoy these parks, bike trails, fresh produce and all these things across the state for many, many years to come.”
Legacy grants range from $10,000 to $100,000 and are primarily directed to capital projects. The program started in February, with grants slated to be awarded in each of the 52 weeks leading up to the big game Feb. 4, 2018.
The Legacy Committee has collaborated with the Minnesota Department of Health to identify pockets of health disparities and worthy projects across the state that will have the most impact.
“We go from the Iron Range to the Iowa border,” Nelson said. “We are looking at fun and fuel. Fun is about increased physical activity and fuel is about access to nutritious foods.”
Grants awarded include:
• $100,000 to the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department to transform old tennis courts into courts for Sepak takraw, a traditional Southeast Asian sport;
• $75,000 to Windom Area Hospital to help build a walking path equipped with exercise and wellness stations;
• $50,000 to Crow Wing Energized, a community health initiative in the Brainerd area, to purchase a fleet of 60 bicycles for kids;
• $50,000 to Second Harvest North Central Food Bank in Grand Rapids for the purchase of a refrigerated truck to transport fresh produce.
Nearly $50,000 also was awarded to the Backus Community Center to help complete a yearslong campaign to replace an aging playground in International Falls, Minn.
In seven years, the community had raised only $12,000, far short of what was needed for new equipment. At that rate it was going to take years to raise all the money needed, said Ward Merrill, executive director of the Backus Center, which is spearheading the playground project with Koochiching County Public Health.
Community members gasped when they saw the grant amount on the oversized Super Bowl Legacy Fund check at the announcement in April. Now the new outdoor play space, which can accommodate youngsters with disabilities, will be ready for children by late summer.
“It’s going to put a really nice park and playground in a neighborhood that is in much need of this facility,” Merrill said.