[Guest Blog] Madison Elementary hosts Walk-A-Thon Fundraiser

October 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Elizabeth ReisingerThis is a guest blog by Elizabeth Reisinger.

Elizabeth K. Reisinger is a full-time freelance writer, contributing articles to many regional and national business, trade and consumer publications, including MSP FLY magazine, NWA WorldTraveler, Minnesota Bride, WHERE Twin Cities, Minnesota Golfer and The Mix. She’s also executed corporate communications projects for Thomson Reuters, 3M, GLTArchitects and Hunter Douglas. See more at www.ekreisinger.com.  Elizabeth is a member of the Madison Elementary School PTA and also has a child attending Madison.

Madison Walk-A-Thon

On October 14, Madison Elementary School in St. Cloud hosts its 5th Annual Walk-A-Thon. A Walk-A-Thon is a fundraising event that includes student, staff and community participation in physical activity.

“Our Madison Walk-A-Thon is a fun, exciting day for the entire school community, as it promotes a healthy, active lifestyle for all students,” said Madison Principal Travis Okerlund.

Students ask family members and friends to make a direct contribution. The monetary goal for the Madison Walk-A-Thon is $10,000, money that the Madison PTA uses to support programming throughout the school year. One hundred percent of the funds raised goes directly to the PTA.

Walk-A-Thon fundraisers aren’t unique to Madison. Many schools throughout the area host Walk-A-Thons thanks to the BLEND initiative. No longer are students asked to sell candy, cookie dough or other potentially unhealthy food items, with only a fraction of the cost going to the school.

Students get moving with Walk-A-Thons!

There’s a minimum amount of laps that students need to walk during their designated time. This year, KCLD will be providing music for a portion of the day free of charge.


The Walk-A-Thon is also part of a larger effort at Madison to engage more students in physical activity. Recess is now a 30-minute class called Outdoor Activities.  “Outdoor Activities was created as a way to expose all students to a greater variety of outdoor options, teach a variety of games and activities, and increase physical activity from 15 minutes daily to 30 minutes daily,” said Okerlund. “Outdoor Activities involves purposefully designing the playground and recess activities to encourage physical activity for all students.”

Interested in making a contribution? Visit GiveMN – Madison Elementary page and make a donation – it’s that simple!

Thanks for reading!
Elizabeth Reisinger

[Guest Blog] A Meaningful and Worthy Fundraiser

June 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Luan Thomas-BrunkhorstThis is a guest post by Luan Thomas-Brunkhorst.

My name is Luan Thomas-Brunkhorst. I come from Lancaster, PA. I lived in Germany for approximately 7 years and studied to become a German teacher at Manhattanville College in New York and Middlebury College in Vermont. I moved to Long Prairie, MN in 1999 to become the German teacher at Long Prairie Grey Eagle High School. After 16 years of teaching German, the German program was cut due to declining enrollment at the public school. I applied for the Long Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce Director position in January 2015 and started working at the Chamber on February 2, 2015.  I now work to promote business in the Long Prairie area and strive to enhance the livability of the Long Prairie area. This is important to me because I have two children (2 boys 5 & 7 years old), and I want them to grow up in a town that is safe, healthy and flourishing. The future is what I work for in the present.  

LPGE Walk-A-Thon

I’ve been a longtime resident of Long Prairie, MN and wanted to share a little success story with all of the BLEND readers out there. My children attend the Long Prairie Grey Eagle (LPGE) Elementary School here in Long Prairie. Recently, the school announced they will be hosting a new “healthy” fundraiser in May supported by BLEND (Better Living: Exercise & Nutrition Daily).  BLEND is funded by the CentraCare Health Foundation and works to engage communities to improve health.  BLEND helped LPGE staff and parents plan the Thunder Pride Walk-A-Thon which took place on May 22.

I was curious – what was this all about and what did planners consider “healthy”?  So, I checked it out for myself. Here’s what I witnessed…

The energy was apparent. It might have been the weather. The day was one of those glorious Minnesota spring days – sunny and warm. The students were eager to participate not only in walking around the track, but they did some hula hooping, jump roping and other games. The kids particularly enjoyed dunking some of their favorite teachers in the dunk tank. They also had three bouncy houses set up, and the students ran, jumped, hooped and hollered through each one of them.

LPGE Walk-a-thon

Their enthusiasm was contagious, and I even walked some laps on the track with them. The walk-a-thon was an amazing success at the LPGE Elementary school and raised over $4,000 for the school and promoted healthful living.

This fundraiser is a healthy, fun event and raises funds without a middle man. I want my children to walk and exercise. I want to support fundraisers with meaning. This fundraiser is meaningful and worthy of supporting. I’m looking forward to our next Thunder Pride Walk-A-Thon!

The next time you’re in Long Prairie or driving by – come in and say “hi!”
Luan Thomas-Brunkhorst

A Day of Walk-A-Thon FUN!

February 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Walk-A-Thon Fun!

What’s the secret behind BLEND’s Walk-A-Thon success? That’s easy. The secret (or the golden rule of walk-a-thons) is……….…drum roll…………they are FUN!  Not just everyday fun. BLEND Walk-A-Thons are genuinely–without a doubt–unanimously–100% FUN!  The kind of fun that kids actually want to talk to parents about.  The kind of fun that kids won’t soon forget. The kind of fun that kids, parents and staff look forward to year, after year, after year.

Traditional Walk-A-Thons vs. BLEND Walk-A-Thons

Wikipedia defines a “walk-a-thon (walking marathon or sponsored walk) as a type of community or school fundraiser in which participants raise money by collecting donations or pledges for walking a predetermined distance or course.”  Traditional walk-a-thons are a good fundraiser and a nice event for participants but they can be a little lackluster – especially for kids.

BLEND Walk-A-Thons are defined as: “an active and healthy fundraising event that encourages students to raise money for their school and in return ALL students participate in a celebratory and fitness-based event.”  In many ways, BLEND Walk-A-Thons are like traditional walk-a-thons. Students do seek donations and walk an identified distance during the event, but the distinct difference is…students are not limited to just walking.  BLEND Walk-A-Thons offers fun fitness activities called “Physical Activity Stations.”  These stations give students the freedom to participate in a number of fitness activities, games and challenges in addition to the walk. Providing a number of physical activity station allows students to choose whichever kind of FUN they want to have.

For those who haven’t seen a BLEND Walk-A-Thon in action or haven’t heard of BLEND Walk-A-Thons – here’s a great way picture it…imagine combining a traditional walk-a-thon, PE class, track & field days, a concert, a school dance and a school carnival (minus the snow cones and cotton candy, of course!). And, there you have it – a BLEND Walk-A-Thon!  Doesn’t that sound like FUN?!

Walking and Fitness Fun!

Physical Activity Stations = FUN!

The fun starts with brainstorming – WAIT!  First, it’s critical to round up a committed team of staff and volunteers to plan and customize the entire walk-a-thon. The planning should start weeks and months before the date of the event.  Once the committee has formed and ready to go –  let the brainstorming begin!  Keep in mind that a walk-a-thon is a fitness-based event to get and keep kids active. Determine how long or how far student will walk before participating in physical activity stations.  Throw around ideas for physical activity stations. Consider how many stations will work for the space available and how many volunteers are needed to support the activities. Most schools select to have 6 to 8 stations. Important to note: be sure to plan activities that are age appropriate and include students with disabilities.

BLEND advises committees to look within their own school for ideas and activities that can elevate their walk-a-thon from ordinary fun to extraordinary fun.  PE Departments are typically the best place to start looking. Equipment is available for free and easy to grab on the day of the event.  Other games and activities may be available in your community, as well. Check your local college and university campuses, retailers and rental stores (inflatables and dunk tank), radio stations, etc. Don’t be afraid to seek donations or ask for a reduced price. If there are parents or staff who have connections in the community – ask them to help make requests.

Here are some ideas to help brainstorm ideas for physical activity stations…

Physical Activity Station

Individual Games (Unstructured Play)
  • Jump ropes
  • Hula hoops
  • Shooting basketball
  • Obstacle course
  • Hurdles
  • Pogo sticks
  • Tumbling mats
  • Biking
Group Games (Structured Play)
  • Kickball
  • Soccer
  • Flag football
  • Catch and throw
  • Bean bag toss
  • Golf ball toss
  • Minute-to-win-it
  • First to finish contests: bug eating, snack eating, etc.
  • Dunk tank
  • Bungee jumping
  • Inflatables

Providing “challenges” can be a great strategy to encourage students to raise more money.  Set target dollar amounts and if students reach that amount they are rewarded participation in these challenges. For example: each student who raises $20 gets a chance to dunk a teacher or take part in the bug eating contest. Increase the money raised to $40 and now students can have unlimited access to the inflatable.

Photos of Fun!

It’s fair to say that no two BLEND Walk-A-Thons are alike – trust me – that’s a good thing. Creating a unique and unexpected event builds excitement and anticipation for the entire school and truly benefits fundraising efforts. Make announcements to share the physical activity stations planned and ask staff to continue promoting in the classroom. It’s noticeable how students become more tuned-in and ready to collect donations when they know how much fun they’re about to have.

Take a look at these photos from area walk-a-thons.  You’ll notice kids and adults are having a lot of FUN!

Do you have other cool activities or ideas that would be a great addition to a walk-a-thon.  Please share and submit a comment – we’d love to hear about them and add to the list!

Would you like your school to host a walk-a-thon fundraiser?  Share this blog with your school administrator or PTA/PTO and tell them to look at this exciting and healthy school fundraiser.  Be sure to send the link to our new tools for organizing a BLEND Walk-A-Thon to show everyone just how easy it is to plan a FUN and profitable walk-a-thon!

Be well,
Kathy Geislinger
BLEND Walk-A-thons Specialist

Walk This Way with BLEND Walk-A-Thons

February 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

BLEND Walk-A-Thons

When did fundraising for schools get so complicated – and, unfortunately, so disliked?

Fundraising is necessary for schools to support vital programming and to supplement funding gaps. However, it’s important for schools to fundraise wisely and with great discretion.  Not only do schools have to be careful not to exhaust families with multiple fundraisers and additional financial burdens – or worse, lose their support entirely – schools also need to ensure they are compliant with the new USDA “Smart Snacks in School” fundraising rule.

Is there an ideal fundraiser that pleases everyone? Sure – and we’ve found it!  BLEND Walk-A-Thons!

BLEND Walk-A-Thons is a healthy, active fundraising model that has catapulted fundraising to a whole new level for many Central MN schools.

Yes – it true!  BLEND Walk-A-Thons have more than tripled its reach in just over four years. Since 2011, BLEND Walk-A-Thons have grown from 6 schools to an incredible 19 SCHOOLS!  What’s more impressive and even more important – these 19 schools are taking steps to improve the health of their students and we couldn’t be happier!

BLEND Walk-A-Thons - Physical Activity

Walk-A-Thon Infographics!

It’s often referenced that walk-a-thons serve dual purpose for schools. 1: walk-a-thons increase opportunities for students to participate in physical activity.  And, 2: walk-a-thons eliminate competitive (unhealthy) foods from fundraising practices.  See for yourself – each infographic shares the results since 2011.

The infographic on the left shows how much physical activity students have participated in during walk-a-thons since 2011.  While the infographic on the right shows just how much “junk food” has been eliminated from fundraising since 2011. As you can see this is unbelievable and incredible!  BLEND deserves very little credit for these results.  All of the praise goes out to our partner schools who have established and implemented amazing walk-a-thon events.

Just Go for It!

Walk-a-thons are helping schools raise more money than ever before!  There are no contracts and no middleman. What does this mean for schools?  School have complete control over their own fundraiser AND schools get to keep 100% of the profits.  This literally means “every penny counts.”

Top Ten Reasons - Walk-a-thons

Are you ready to bring a healthy, active fundraiser to your school and say “NO” to product sales and multiple annual fundraisers?  If “YES” is your answer then we can’t wait to help you!

BLEND has worked very hard to make it easy for schools to change the way they approach fundraising.  Over the past four years, BLEND has learned so many tips and tricks to host a successful walk-a-thon and we’re excited to finally share them with you!  Go to the BLEND website and take a look at the NEW content and “Tools for Organizing” a walk-a-thon.  We have created comprehensive resources to help schools (at any level) start the conversation and begin planning a custom walk-a-thon fundraiser.

If you need more information or have questions – don’t hesitate to ask me!

Keep moving for good health!
Kathy Geislinger
BLEND Program Specialist – Walk-A-Thons

[Guest Blog] All Stars Walk-A-Thon at Lincoln Elementary

October 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Dawn MarinraoThis is a guest blog by Dawn Marinrao.

Dawn Marinrao moved to St Cloud in 1985 to attend St. Cloud State University. Along the way, she fell in love with her husband and the city.  Dawn is a “work-at-home” mom to a 7 year old Lincoln Elementary student. When Dawn is not being mom, or working her online jobs, she is busy as the Lincoln PTA President or helping her husband in the retail store they own.

Lincoln Elementary Walk-A-Thon

Lincoln Elementary is planning to host their 6th annual All Stars Walk-A-Thon fundraiser on Tuesday, October 14th, 2014. As we began to plan this year’s event, we spent some time reflecting on past fundraisers. Last year we decided to host the Walk-A-Thon event during the school day rather than an after school event like we did in other years…and wow, were we happy with that decision.  Hosting a Walk-A-Thon during the school day allowed us to get ALL the kids involved and active.  We were really encouraged by the response and now have plans to make this year’s “school day” Walk-A-Thon bigger and better!

Our school staff and PTA have learned that Walk-A-Thons are much more than just a fundraiser, they are a day to celebrate school spirit, a day to recognize the importance of physical activity and a day to appreciate our students for all their efforts in- and out- of the classroom.  Our students, on the other hand, really recognize this event as a day to HAVE FUN!

Lincoln Elementary Walk-A-Thon

Big Plans in the Making!

Our Walk-A-Thon may be a bit of a misnomer, though!  Instead of just walking to raise money, Lincoln Elementary – like most Central MN schools – offers a variety of other fitness-based activities.  Last year, we planned activities that had our students running, jumping and climbing.  We also had a creative group of older students design an obstacle course for the younger students to go through.  They LOVED that!  We also played music to keep everyone’s spirits up and feet moving.

Lincoln Elementary Walk-A-Thon

As I mentioned earlier, we plan to make this year’s Walk-A-Thon bigger and better.  We’re looking for special guests to join us to help lead the activities. We’ve already recruited St. Cloud State University students, St. Cloud Apollo High School students and our very own student council.  Our Phys. Ed. department is introducing several new games to our event; including gymnastics, football, basketball, pogo sticks, gunny sack races and so much more!  Kids are encouraged to walk 1/4 mile before they can participate in the games.  It is – after all – a Walk-A-Thon!

Lincoln Elementary Walk-A-Thon

All students will receive a water bottle donated by Huse Orthodontics. Students will have a chance to win small prizes based on how much money they raise.  The top earning classroom will win a class party.  And, the top student fundraiser will win an autographed Anne Schleper Golden Gopher Hockey custom made wood sign!  That’s right!  ANNE SCHLEPER agreed to autograph a sign for us.  It helps that her mother is a 2nd grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School!  For those who don’t know Anne Schleper – here’s her bio…

Anne SchleperAnne Schleper

Born and raised in St. Cloud, Anne Schleper, Olympic silver medalist in Sochi, Russia last year, graduated from Cathedral High School in 2008. Schleper was a star hockey athlete all through high school and while she was studying business and marketing at the University of Minnesota, where she was an outstanding, multiple-award-winning defense player for the Minnesota Gophers Women’s Hockey Team. She currently plays for the Boston Blades and for the U.S. Women’s National Ice Hockey Team.

Anne also signed a USA Olympic Hockey sign for us. Instead of giving it away we are auctioning it off.  The person or entity with the highest bid will win it!  Auction will start on Thursday, October 9th, 2014 and end on Tuesday, October 14, 2014!  Anyone interested can go to BLEND’s Facebook page to learn more and to bid on the sign.  Remember – this is a fundraiser that will support Lincoln Elementary School and out students – we’re hoping you think BIG!

Anne Schleper

Where Will the Money Go?

During last year’s Walk-A-Thon, our students were able to raise just under $4,000. This was more than other years. We are making strides to raise more money but we certainly can’t complain. Our All Stars (students) worked really hard to raise this money and we are very proud of our them!  We are happy to tell them that every penny they brought in will stay at our school.

Lincoln Elementary is one of District 742’s smallest schools serving nearly 400 students in K- 5th grade.  As the PTA President, I am tasked with helping our school raise money to fill in the gaps and fund school needs. The money that was raised last year helped us purchase technology for our school. We were finally able to buy SmartBoards for the last two classes that didn’t have them. We are looking to continue to support technology and give our students the best opportunity for learning.  We are also looking to fund our specialist program – like Music, Art and Phys. Ed.

Lincoln Elementary Walk-A-Thon

I hear about the funds raised by other schools in the area and I’m in awe. Schools are raising tens of thousands of dollars at their Walk-A-Thon and I want Lincoln Elementary to be one of them some day.  For now, though, we’ve got a new fundraising goal, one that feels right for our school. We’d love to be able to surpass last year and push towards $6,000.  Doing the math that’s only $15 per students. We could do so much with this kind of money.  I can’t wait to see how far our kids can go!  Go Lincoln All Stars!!

Dawn Marinrao
Lincoln Elementary PTO President

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