New London

Scout honored for effort to save stricken bus driver

A 16-year-old Scout's courage in a crisis earned him a national honor this month.

Jeron Baalson was riding home from school on March 9 when the school van's driver suffered a heart attack and drove off the road. Jeron, who has been diagnosed with autism, used the van's radio to call for help and initiated first aid — opening an airway and starting CPR.

The 64-year-old driver, Greg Engelke, died despite the best efforts of Jeron and emergency responders, but the teen's heroic efforts earned him scouting's National Medal of Merit. He received the award, given to those who "performed an act of service of a rare or exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for the well-being of others," on Dec. 10. The Boy Scouts of America award just 100 of the medals nationwide each year.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks


87 counties share health grants

Every county in Minnesota is getting a boost of extra funding from the state to help their residents live longer, healthier lives.

The Statewide Health Improvement Program is steering $27.2 million in new funding to city and county programs including those that focus on the health of seniors and for efforts to delay the onset or progression of dementia.

Different counties have found different ways to put the extra funding to use: Part of Chisago County's $385,634 grant will go to help build dementia-friendly environments for seniors. Dakota County's $1.5 million grant will go to the county health department, which is working on a system to prevent falls and dementia among older residents.

Benton, Sherburne and Stearns counties will pool their separate SHIP grants for a workplace wellness initiative on dementia awareness and caregiver support.

For the past six years, the state has awarded SHIP funding for projects ranging from healthy school lunch efforts to stop-smoking programs.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks


New high-speed gondola starts service Friday

Lutsen Mountain will debut its new $7 million gondola next Friday, just in time for a snow-friendlier forecast at the downhill ski resort.

The bright-red, high-speed Doppelmayr gondola is capable of whisking 1,000 passengers an hour up Moose Mountain. The dedication ceremony kicks off at 11 a.m. Friday, and all attendees can take a ride to the summit.

The gondola project is part of an ongoing $25 million effort to upgrade the ski resort. Unusually warm December weather pushed the dedication ceremony back, but a Lutsen spokesman said the forecast is finally favorable and by the time the holidays approach, all the hills will be open, along with 30 or more runs.

Jennifer Brooks @stribrooks