Youth in and around the Alexandria area will have more opportunity to pedal their way to the Central Lakes Trail this summer.
The Alexandria Area YMCA bought a fleet of 36 Trek bicycles and a trailer to haul them in after receiving a $50,000 grant from the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund.
The grant is part of the 52 Weeks of Giving Campaign, which is 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 young people in Minnesota. Minnesota will host the 2018 Super Bowl.
During a grant presentation Tuesday, Conrad Bostron, president and CEO of the Alexandria Area YMCA, said the grant amount was boosted from $30,000 to $50,000 because of a generous donation from 3M, which he said the Y was "very appreciative and extremely grateful for."
The 36 bikes, said Bostron, are geared for students in fifth and sixth grade and younger and will be used for summer day camps and by youth groups including both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts.
"Many children in Alexandria don't own or have access to a reliable bicycle, but we know what a great activity bike riding is for young people," Bostron said. "This grant will help us teach kids to ride a bike and provide bikes as a resource to them. We hope this effort results in a lifelong love of biking and all of the great health benefits it brings."
The bike project was a collaborative effort with Horizon Public Health. In addition to the bikes and trailer, the grant will help purchase reflective vests and helmets.
Tuesday's presentation included a bike safety demonstration and bike rodeo for students from St. Mary's Catholic School, along with presentations from Alexandria City Mayor Sara Carlson; Katy Perry, chair of the YMCA board of directors; Ryan Carns, plant manager of Alexandria 3M; Sandy Tubbs, director of Horizon Public Health; Jake Capistrant from Jake's Bikes; and Dana Nelson, vice president of Legacy and Community Partnerships for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund.
Nelson said the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee formed a partnership with Minnesota Department of Health's Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) and that the Super Bowl legacy fund is providing the 52 grants in hopes of building awareness of, and investing in solutions for, a healthier generation of kids across the state.
She said statistics have indicated that this is first time where kids' life expectancy is shorter than their parents and that the committee wanted to figure out a way it could make a difference for the health of youth in Minnesota.
"The efforts of the Alexandria Area YMCA will help improve the health and wellness of youth in this area," she said.
Perry thanked everyone involved in making the grant possible and said he is grateful for the partnerships. He added, "This will impact our whole community. We hope this will help to accelerate a healthier lifestyle in our youth."