Central MN Celebrates International Walk/Bike to School Day!

October 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Walk and Bike to School Day

Today is International Walk/Bike to School Day! This semi-annual event comes as many local school districts in Central Minnesota are seeing a resurgence in students who are getting to class on their own.  You can hear Dan Bittman, Superintendent of Sauk Rapids-Rice Schools and myself discuss why walking and biking to school is important here.

Sebastian and his Morningstar bike gang.

Sebastian and his Morningstar bike gang (Mallory Moen, Sebastian Lau, Payton Fandel and Maxx Jokela) rack and lock up their bikes at Sartell Middle School after their successful 1 mile commute.


If you missed walking or biking to school today no problem! Give it a try tomorrow with your son or daughter.  It’s a great way to get some exercise, talk with your child and enjoy the remaining nice weather that Minnesota has to offer.

Sebastian bikes to school!

Sebastian is pictured with his mom, Theresa, before he bikes to school and she goes for bike ride with a friend.


Below Sebastian Lau describes in his own words why he bikes to school. Sebastian and his mom both explain to WJON why allowing Sebastian to walk to school is important to them here. You can also hear Sartell city and school district leadership talk about what the city of Sartell has accomplished in Safe Routes to School and what they have targeted for future development.

Walk and Bike to School Day 2

Did your child walk or bike to school today?  Comment below and tell us!  If you have a story about your child walking or biking to school – please let us know!  We’d love to share with our readers.

Dawn Moen
BLEND Program Specialist – Safe Routes to School


Biking to School & Letting Her Go

September 18, 2014 by · 5 Comments 

Dawn Moen's daughter Mallory
I just let Mallory bike to middle school. This little peanut!  MIDDLE SCHOOL!  For three weeks now actually. My daughter laces up her tennis shoes, straps on her helmet, throws her backpack over her shoulders and off she goes. She bikes with neighborhood kids on a 1 mile journey through Sartell on her way to middle school. For the first week I accompanied her, showing the safe routes and how to get to the crossing guards. But now she does it alone. ALONE!

I let her bike away from me into that scary world full of unknowns…AND my heart swells and breaks at the same time. I cannot control that scary world and I have no business trying to. I let her bike toward a life that is HERS and not mine. Toward experiences that she is meant to have without me. Toward journeys that she HAS to take alone.

Dawn Moen's daughter Mallory

And there’s that feeling that occurs inside of a mom’s heart as she’s watching her child walk or bike away without her… As her child reaches another milestone….Elatedevastated.  World, please, please, please be good to her.  Drivers please see my daughter as she crosses. PLEASE be off your phones and focus on the road. Focus on HER. Kids, please be kind to my daughter and help her if she falls (metaphorically or actually).

The first week of biking to school I checked the classified ads thinking that Mallory was most certainly placing an ad for a new family to live with. She was not happy about biking and she wanted me to change to a job where I no longer advocated for active living.  “The healthy choice sucks,” were her exact words.  But during week 2 she got to go at it alone with her friends and she fell in love.

Dawn Moen's daughter Mallory

And now, now…Now it’s just a way of life for her and I don’t know how to feel. My daughter doesn’t need me…at least not for transportation. NO! NO! NO!  That wasn’t supposed to happen. I knew that as part of my role with BLEND I had to walk the walk or bike the bike…until it failed, but Mallory wasn’t supposed to want to do this without me.  So every morning I watch her bike away from me and my heart breaks a little.

These past few weeks it hit me that walking and biking to school isn’t really about the health and wellness aspect of it. I read the data daily about kids that walk or bike to school academically outperforming their peers. They have healthier BMIs and most importantly learn lifelong skills about incorporating physical activity into their daily routine…BUT I still struggled. WHY? Because it wasn’t about the numbers or about helping my daughter make healthy choices, it was about letting go. Letting HER go.

Dawn Moen's daughter Mallory  Dawn Moen's daughter Mallory

I need to let my little girl go…This little person that still needs me to kiss her boo-boos when she falls and to help her put in ponytails….And I suspect that allowing kids walk or bike to school for so many is a lot about letting go for other parents too. A LOT.  Some aren’t ready.

That’s probably why many parents look at me like I’m feeding my child Skittles and Jack Daniels for breakfast  EVERY morning when I tell them I’m letting Mallory bike to school. My 5th grader. You know that look. Like, “Are you INSANE?” Followed by that overly polite, “That’s greeeaaaaaat.”  NOT!

I’ve come to realize that they’re not quite ready to let go yet AND that’s okay. I respect that decision because life can be cruel. Our generation has seen some pretty horrific events that make us want to hold our kids tighter than ever AND that’s okay.

Secretly, part of me thought that letting Mallory bike to school was going to be an epic fail and then we’d go back to her needing me for rides and my being able to protect her with that bubble wrap. BUT she didn’t. And I’m elatedevastated.  I can’t hold onto her forever. And sometimes the tighter you hold, the more they slip away, like sand. But letting go hurts. Like A LOT.

It’s like that feeling you get when you look at the sun because it’s so beautiful, but then your eyes start to tear and your retinas start to burn. REALLY BURN. You’ve seen something really beautiful, but it still hurts. Love really hurts. This gets easier, right?

Dawn Moen's daughter Mallory

Share one of your child’s milestones and how you handled it in the comment section below for a chance to win a $25 Coborn’s gift card.

Thanks for reading!
Dawn Moen
BLEND Program Specialist

[Guest Blog] Passing on a Love of Fitness to my Kids

August 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As back to school mode is in full affect, I’d like to introduce you to BLEND’s newest guest blogger, Marissa Mahowald.  As the Safe Routes to School Specialist for BLEND, I am thrilled to find parents who support and encourage their kids to walk and bike to school.  Marissa is one of those parents.  She is a great role model for fitness and a community champion who truly “walks the walk and talks the talk.”  I’m happy to introduce you to Marissa Mahowald!

Dawn Moen

Marissa is a mom to Tyler, (age 11) Megan, (age 9) and Ryan (age 6) and lives in Sartell, MN. She is a teacher for blind and visually impaired students for St. Cloud Area School District. In her free time, Marissa is an avid runner and just completed her first triathlon this summer and took third in her age group! 

Marissa and her family enjoying some lake time

And They’re Off…

As the school year gets ready to start, my kids are already talking about how excited they are to walk or ride their bikes to school. And I’m looking forward to watching them head out each morning, knowing that they will be getting some fresh air and exercise before they hit the classroom.

As an adult, I feel more energized and ready to tackle my day when I have gotten up and exercised in the morning. I’m sure that kids are no exception to this. They are better equipped to learn and grow in school when they have had fresh air and a walk or bike ride before sitting in class.

I also like that we are less constrained by the bus schedule when my kids walk or ride. Catching the bus means rushing around and prodding them to keep moving through their morning routine. When they walk or ride their bikes, they can be more flexible in what time they head out the door. This means happier kids and happier parents in our house.

Marissa at the Graniteman Triathlon

Marissa at the Graniteman Triathlon


Staying Fit with Our Kids

My husband and I are avid exercisers, and feel it’s important to pass on our love for staying fit with our kids. I still remember riding my bike next to my dad when he went for a run when I was a little girl. When my kids were born, they all rode in the jogging stroller when I went for a run. As they got older, they graduated to being able to bike along with me.

Now our kids participate in various running and biking events in the area, such as the Kids Apple Duathlon and the YMCA’s Wishbone Run. I didn’t discover my love for running and cycling until I was an adult, and I love watching this grow in my children when they are so young. We’re lucky to live in an area with so many fun events and opportunities to stay fit.

Meg and Tyler after completing a triathlon

Meg and Tyler after completing a triathlon


Thanks for reading my guest post!
Marissa Mahowald

Pleasantview Students attend Legionville

July 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Legionville 2014_2

Over the past two weeks 20 students from Pleasantview Elementary in Sauk Rapids, MN have attended the Legionville Crossing Guard Camp near Brainerd, MN as part of a Safe Routes to School Grant, BLEND and the CentraCare Health Foundation. This fall,  Pleasantview will have new sidewalks surrounding it as part of a MnDOT infrastructure grant and with it will come a new student run Safety Patrol!  We are proud of these students for leading this important safety effort in Sauk Rapids. Way to go!

Below is Caleb Euteneuer and he share’s his experience from Legionville. Caleb is a 5th grader at Pleasantview Elementary.

Caleb writes…

Legionville 2014“I had a fun time at Legionville!  Each day we had classes about pedestrian safety, first aid, canoeing, and swimming. I enjoyed learning about pedestrian safety and first aid. Now I know how to use a flag to help other students cross the street safely.”

Legionville 2014_3“If someone gets hurt I know first aid so that I can help them.  We also had time to play with friends and go to the canteen.  Some other recreational activities that we played were softball, soccer, and kickball.”

LegionvilleIt was fun to have my friends staying in my cabin but it was good to make new friends from other cities.  I am looking forward to becoming part of the Safety Patrol at Pleasantview Elementary this fall.”

Thanks for reading!  Be sure to visit the Safe Routes to School page on the BLEND website to learn more about my work to grow the Safe Routes to School initiative within Central Minnesota communities.

Dawn Moen
BLEND Program Specialist

The 3-2-B Healthier in 2014

January 7, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

Moen kids sledding

Happy New Year!  Now what?  It’s minus 15 degrees outside and you’re already set to throw your resolutions out the window. Oh wait, you didn’t make them yet? You’re in luck because these 3 easy and specific resolutions are sure to jumpstart your healthier path in 2014. Remember whether you pick these 3-2-B healthy or create your own, be specific!

1. Get outside for at least 15 minutes per day!

Okay maybe not when it’s minus 15, but any day that is zero or above is fair game to get out and move. Go for a walk. If you are cold…run! Take up a winter sport such as cross country skiing or skating with your kids. Parking your car a little farther from the door in parking lots, taking a quick walk around your office building at lunch or jogging around your neighborhood will make an impact on your health. Buy a pedometer and resolve to get at least 10,000 steps every day. Bottom line: Make the effort to get some fresh air every day. When it’s cold, it will feel especially fresh.

Moen family skiing at Lutsen

2. Pick a fitness event and sign up right now!

Whether it’s a running, biking, swimming or some other event find something now and sign up. We are almost ready to announce our 2014 Fit Kids Club Series but don’t let that stop you. Identify the event now and then put together an action plan to get there. I will cover putting together training plans in February. Not interested in signing up for a fitness event? Sign up for a Yoga class, healthy cooking class or meditation series. Bottom line: Sign up for something new and make yourself go!

3. Sleep more!

If you want a major life overhaul without much effort, getting more shut-eye is the way to go. Sleeping helps you burn fat, decreases stress, improves your immune system and boosts your mood and mental clarity. Slowly change your routine to add 15 minutes a night until you get to eight hours. Add 15 minutes of meditation or classical music and reading to your bedtime routine. Being more active throughout the course of your day will assist you with falling asleep at night. Bottom line: Get 8 hours of sleep per night. No excuses.

Tell us your story!Dawn Moen and family

We know there are amazing healthy living success stories across Central Minnesota and we want to hear them! Share your walking or biking story and how you incorporate either into your daily life. If you are selected as a BLEND champion you will win a $50 Coborn’s gift card!  Your story could be about walking or biking to school, work or elsewhere, successfully training for a race, family activities (my family loves skating on the neighborhood pond!), implementing a neighborhood walking school bus or bike train. Your success will educate and inspire other BLEND champions around the state! Use our web form to submit your story, and we’ll get in touch with you soon to elevate and share it.

Remember that walking, cycling or increasing physical activity of any type daily will increase your health and the quality of the life that you live. Kids need 60 minutes of physical activity a day and adults need 30 minutes.

Stay warm!

Dawn MoenDawn Moen is the BLEND Safe Routes to School Program Specialist.

Her primary responsibility will include growing the Safe Routes to School initiative within Central Minnesota communities; including: Sartell, Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud. Dawn’s efforts will include evaluating and expanding the safety, awareness and usage of the walking and biking paths surrounding elementary and middle schools.


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