MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund on Wednesday made its first meaningful mark on the state with a grant donation of $52,000 to the Loppet Foundation during a press conference at Theodore Wirth Park.
The program kicked off the Legacy Fund's '52 Weeks of Giving' campaign to ramp up statewide support for health and fitness for generations to come through weekly grants in the build up to Feb. 4, 2018, when Minnesota takes center stage by hosting Super Bowl LII.
The grant that was presented Wednesday will help fund "The Trailhead: A Home for Year-Round Adventure" in the park. The Trailhead is a building that will be constructed this year through a public-private partnership between the Loppet Foundation and the Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board to advance equity in outdoor recreation.
State and city dignitaries, as well as host committee leaders gathered on a trademark February Minnesota day, sunny and 10-ish degrees with a little less snow than normal to recognize the work that's been accomplished by the Loppet Foundation and celebrate the "Bold North" theme that will guide Super Bowl LII festivities.
Since 2002, more than 12,000 third-through-12th graders, including more than 9,000 from nearby North Minneapolis neighborhoods, have been able to participate in outdoor activities like mountain biking, cross country skiing, trail running, paddling and orienteering.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges told attendees that the MNSBHC's Legacy Fund "is continuing a tradition of giving that is part of the fabric of who we are as a state and community."
"I cannot think of a better organization to accept the first Legacy Grant, to represent the Bold North the best, who represents the best of us as a community, than the Loppet Foundation," said Hodges, who attended the Loppet Ski Festival this past weekend.
Hodges said she spoke with many young and first-time participants in between being recognized with a medal for their completion of the course and a cup of hot chocolate.
"You cannot beat the spark in the young people's eyes as they are participating in the Loppet, and you see that in all of the activities," Hodges said.
Several students from Lucy Craft Laney Community School took a break from tubing down the nearby hill to join the program for Wednesday's check presentation. They were welcomed by cheers from those in attendance and applause, muffled by mittens.
The other outdoor adventures included snow shoeing and winter biking.
"Our mission is to get people outdoors and active throughout the year," Loppet Foundation Executive Director John Munger said. "We believe good things happen when you get people outdoors and active. People are happier and healthier. You all look very happy — not cold at all.
"Obesity rates go down, people are reconnected with nature and each other, kids do better behaviorally and academically," Munger continued. "We don't just teach kids to love skiing and biking and trail running, we give them strategies for life. We teach kids self-confidence. They learn when they fall, they have to get up again. They learn the connection between hard work and success."
To commemorate the kick-off countdown to Super Bowl LII, U.S. Bank Stadium, the 35W bridge, the Lowry Avenue bridge, the IDS building and other Minnesota landmarks downtown put on a light show in Bold North colors on Monday.
Communities that host the Super Bowl are awarded $1 million in grants from the NFL Foundation.
Minnesota's host committee appreciates the opportunities that can be created, but also made a commitment that will ripple across the Land of 10,000 Lakes through partnerships that include the Department of Health, the Department of Education, the Vikings and the NFL's Fuel Up to Play 60 movement.
"I couldn't be prouder of Minnesota because we're choosing to take a single event and leverage it into a lifetime of health and wellness," MNSBHC Co-Chair of the Legacy Advisory Board Wendy Nelson told Vikings.com. "The partnership with the Vikings, the focus from our Minnesota leaders to say, how do we take something that is one game, when the clock runs out, what's going to be left over?
"When the clock runs out, what's going to be left over is an amazing opportunity for kids," she continued. "I think the other thing that is so cool is we have all of these great things going on in our community, and through the Vikings, through Super Bowl LII, we're empowering these leaders to bring their visions to life so the Super Bowl lives on and on. I call it the 'Minnesota Super Bowl Heart.' "
Wendy Nelson said the Loppet Foundation is "really amazing because they're all about creating a passion for energizing kids and all of us to be active throughout the year and providing opportunities for that."
"The combination of what we're trying to do through the Legacy Fund and make sure that we have a lifetime of health and wellness for our kids is perfect," Nelson said.
Vice President of Legacy and Community Partnerships Dana Nelson said she is excited that the grants "will showcase communities across Minnesota."
"You'll see different types of grants, and the innovation and how we're really looking at, not we, the collective we, we're partnering with the Department of Health, the Department of Education, the Vikings, Fuel Up to Play 60," Dana Nelson said. "We're going to ensure that more and more kids are eating a great breakfast and getting really fueled up.
"There are so many great programs out there, so I think how we use the Super Bowl as a platform to make them more visible, invest additional dollars and bring that all to bear," she added.
Grants will be unique each week, but the MNSBHC Legacy Fund is committed to including all of Minnesota, from the Iron Range to the Iowa border and from Moorhead to the Mississippi River.
"I think we want to engage as many Minnesota kids and families to be a part of it," Dana Nelson added. "When the Super Bowl comes on, I want them to [say], 'We're part of that,' and really feel that pride in our state."