Friends for Upper Sioux Agency help raise donations for youth skis

Kyle Klausing
Granite Falls Advocate Tribune

The students at Bert Raney Elementary in Granite Falls will have a new winter activity to look forward to thanks to generous donations of cross-country skis from the Friends for Upper Sioux Agency, the Granite Falls Kiwanis Club, and the Granite Falls Lions Club. Although many have never skied before, the donors hope that the new equipment will give students the opportunity to develop a new life-long outdoor passion.

According to Friends member Dave Smiglewski, the skis will be available to 5th graders during their winter Physical Education class to start with. In total, the combined donations were able to purchase 28 sets of skis, ski boots, and poles for teachers to use. “The skis and poles are made by Nordic Rocks and have adjustable bindings that will accommodate each kids’ normal winter boots,” Smiglewski noted.

The idea for acquiring youth skis stemmed from a conversation between BRE Phy Ed teacher Mary Grey and Upper Sioux Agency State Park Assistant Manager Emily Albin where they discussed possible ideas for winter outdoor activities. “Emily suggested cross-country skiing and that there are skis designed for youngsters that don’t require special ski boots,” Smiglewski said. “The idea struck her as a way to introduce kids to a fun outdoor winter activity that could lead some of them as they grow to ski at the state park or in other parks in our area.”

Albin reached out to Friends Board members Smiglewski and Tom Cherveny with the idea and the group decided to put some of the organization’s money towards the skis while raising additional funds to purchase roughly 30 sets of skis. The group also strategized about where best to locate the new skis. “We had originally thought about having the skis available at the park but soon realized that could be difficult to have them available on a timely basis and that the skis would find better use at the school,” Smiglewski recalled. “We contacted YME Community Ed Director Tim Knapper and BRE Phy Ed teacher Mary Gray about that idea and they were both enthusiastic about the idea and fully in favor of it.”  

The Friends determined that the total cost for the set of skis and poles (in addition to a set for the teacher) would cost approximately $3,000. The group also determined that they could afford to cover $1,000 towards the purchase before approaching the Granite Falls Kiwanis Club and Granite Falls Lions Club for a $750 donation. “Both organizations enthusiastically agreed to donate those amounts toward the project and Tim Knapper said he could find the remaining amount, expected to be around $500 from some left-over donated money that YME Community Ed had,” Smigleewski said.

This helped the Upper Sioux Park Friends meet their goal, however, a new problem arose. Central Cross Country Skiing in Verona, Wisconsin said that each pair would cost $150 but that they only had 13 remaining  pairs. It transpired that there were 15 lightly used sets that they could sell for $50 each and so it was decided to proceed with that option. “We worked with YME Community to make the actual purchase of the ski sets, which saved nearly $200 in sales tax, and the order was sent off to Central Cross Country Skiing in Verona, Wisconsin,” Smiglewski said. In addition to shipping costs, the total 28 sets of skis came to $2,780. This leaves enough in the budget to purchase skis, boots and poles for the teacher.

“The skis arrived this past week and will soon be in use by BRE Fifth Graders, provided that we get a bit more snow!” Smiglewski said jubilantly. “We are extremely grateful to each of the  organizations who generously and enthusiastically helped out on this project. The kids at YME will learn about a fun outdoor activity that they can use for their entire lives.”