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Super Bowl LII Legacy Fund Celebrates 26 Weeks, Awards $50K Grant in Mankato

Posted Aug 2, 2017

MANKATO, Minn. – Vikings players weren’t the only ones riding bicycles on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato Wednesday morning.

More than 25 young people from Rosa Parks Elementary School were on hand for a $50,000 grant awarded from The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee (MNSBHC) Legacy Fund. The donation was made to Blue Earth County Public Health for the purchase of 60 bikes and two bike trailers for local schools.

Blue Earth County Public Health promotes a “BE WELL” initiative that continuously seeks out ways to make biking and walking more accessible for Mankato’s residents. BE WELL supports efforts of physical education teachers at local schools to incorporate the Walk! Bike! Fun! curriculum into their classes.

The grant given Wednesday allows the BE WELL program to be offered to every school in the Mankato Area Public Schools District, which serves approximately 8,300 children.

Mark Piepho, Chair of the Blue Earth County Board of Commissioners, said he was grateful for the chance to provide local children the opportunity to get outside and be active.

“It’s really fun, and that’s the whole idea,” Piepho said. “The grant is for promoting biking – particularly in the school curriculum and activities within elementary schools – and getting kids to get out and exercise more, to enjoy biking and learn more about how to ride bikes safely.”

The grant is part of the Super Bowl Legacy Program, which is made possible annually by a $1 million contribution, courtesy of the NFL Foundation, and is complemented by the Super Bowl Host Committee. Through its “52 Weeks of Giving” campaign, the MNSBHC has launched a year-long effort to make Super Bowl LII a statewide event by awarding 52 communities with grants that will help improve the health and wellness of Minnesota’s youth.

Wednesday’s event marked 26 weeks.

“It gives me goosebumps,” said MNSBHC Vice President Dana Nelson of reaching the halfway point. “I mean, every week to be in a different community across Minnesota, supporting very distinct, unique, awesome projects and investing in the health and wellness of kids and families.”

Nelson pointed out that not every child has the opportunity to learn how to ride a bike, and the new bike fleet will ensure that education is made available.

She added that hosting the grant presentation at Vikings Verizon Training Camp made the day extra significant.

“The Vikings have really been with us every step of the way,” Nelson said. “It’s been this incredible partnership … Vikings fans are everywhere and have such a strong presence across our state and across the Midwest.”

The group of Rosa Parks students donned brightly colored helmets and tried out the new bikes for the first time. They were taught how to safely check the bicycles before riding and then rode them through an instructional course that had been set up on nearby tennis courts.

The dings of bicycle bells mixed with laughter as the youth peddled through the course.

Kevin Lindsey, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, had the unique experience of working with the Wilf Family Ownership group and with Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren in the construction of U.S. Bank Stadium and is now partnering with the Vikings again as a member of the host committee.

“That [partnership] carries over to the Super Bowl Host Committee, and that carries over to the Vikings commitment to make sure that all kids have fun activities to be a part of,” Lindsey said.

“Today we’re down here in Mankato, and I really appreciate the bike program here,” Lindsey added. “So that [youth] can be healthy, safe and have a lot of fun riding their bikes.”

A unique aspect of the bike fleet is that it will include adaptive bikes and balance bikes so that children with limited physical abilities can also take part in the BE WELL program. In the summer months, youth who participate in the district’s summer child care, community education and recreation programs, and local non-profits that serve youth or low-income families will use the bikes in daily activities.

Kristen Friedrichs, Blue Earth County SHIP Coordinator, said the $50,000 grant will directly impact the health and wellness of elementary students in the Mankato area.

“The Walk! Bike! Fun! training helps keep kids active and teaches them how to get around their community safely and more conveniently on bikes,” Friedrichs said. “We are looking forward to working with more school districts in Blue Earth County that are interested in incorporating this into their curriculum.”

Following the Vikings walk-through practice session, the students met with Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer along with Kevin McDermott, Kai Forbath, Marshall Koehn, Ryan Quigley and Taylor Symmank.

The specialists encouraged the students to continue riding their bikes and spending time outside and reminded them about the NFL’s Play60 message, which promotes 60 minutes of activity a day for youth.