[Guest Blog] What an Experience!

July 22, 2015 by · 3 Comments 

Geri BechtoldThis is a guest blog by Geri Bechtold.

Geri Bechtold is the Director of KIDSTOP for the Boys & Girls Club. Geri has worked for the Club for 26 years, she really enjoys her job, because it is great having the opportunity to provide activities, programs and events that make such a difference for the youth of Central Minnesota. During Geri’s free time, she helps out on her brother’s dairy farm, she takes care of the baby calves, help with harvesting, along with many other tasks. Geri enjoys vegetable and flower gardening, spending time with her nephews and niece, biking, reading and doing crafts.

What an Experience!

What and experience!  The Boys & Girls Club/KIDSTOP program was invited to attend the Earth Day Run – BLEND Kids Health and Fitness Expo and participate in the 1K Youth Fun Run.  We have 17 sites throughout Central Minnesota and we had 15 sites from St. Cloud, Sartell, Sauk Rapids, St. Joseph, Waite Park and Clearlake/Clearwater participate.  The children that were participating in the 1K run started training about two months before in preparation.  I was contacted by Kathy Geislinger (BLEND staff) and Deb Johannson and Paul Bates (St. Cloud School District #742 PE teachers) who worked in collaboration with us to provide training activities for the children to do to help prepare for the 1K, as well.

The day of the “big” event arrived, we brought 215 children to the BLEND expo, the excitement of the children as they entered Halenbeck Hall was amazing, the AirMaxx launch pad opportunity, the inflatables, the live dancing, it was great; the children loved the inflatables the best of all, AirMaxx was a close second, the thing they didn’t like about AirMaxx was the wait time.

The big moment!

Then, the moment came for the run. BLEND and the Earth Day Run committee planned a special 4:30 p.m. run just for our sites and kids. It was so well organized by the group, from the start, the safety of the runners, and, to a very smooth finish; it was amazing!  We had 208 children run, once they arrived it all happened so quickly and with all the excitement we had children who ran who didn’t want to run before arriving.  The best part was the medals that each one received as they crossed the finish line, lots of smiles and cheering each other on, it was great to see.

I was at the end of the race as runners were finishing and witnessed a lot of great moments, the best one that stands out to me was “the brothers.”  At one of the sites we have a child in first grade with special needs – he participated in the 1K and had a helper run with him. This child has an older brother in fourth grade who had finished the 1K before him. As the first grader crossed the finish line his older brother was waiting for him.  He gave him a high five and a big hug and said “I knew you could do it Buddy!”  It brought tears to my eyes.

Earth Day Run

Another story from one of the sites… we have a member who has special needs and the Dad ran with him, as he crossed the finish line the rest of the children from his site went over and gave a “group” hug.

Janelle Curry, Healthy Lifestyles Coordinator, brought 8 children from the Southside Boys & Girls Club and mentioned this was great because it was an opportunity for her members to participate in something they would not be able to do without the help of BLEND. She also stated that “this is a great opportunity for members of the community to get together, share expertise on health and wellness and be active together.” Janelle’s members were so excited that day as they were doing warm up stretches before the run began. One of the runners had lots to say about the run but said it all with this comment “It was really fun. My favorite part was getting the medal after finishing the race!”  Another member also said “I really liked that the volunteers were helpful and encouraging when we were running!”

Here’s a very short (amateur) video that gives everyone a good idea how much fun the day was for all of us!

Over all the day was a HUGE success thanks to all the volunteers who helped out and to BLEND for making it possible for our children to get to the event as well as participate in the run.  A special thanks to Barrt Gevens for the help with registration and a HUGE pat on the back to Kathy Geislinger for everything she has done to get this organized.  A great time was had by all.

See you at Earth Day Run next year!
Geri Bechtold
Director of KIDSTOP for the Boys & Girls Club

[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

It’s Running Season, Baby!

April 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

It's Running Season, Baby!

Running has no age limits, no required body type or muscle mass, no official uniform or monthly cost. All you really need is a good pair of shoes and a place to run…no fancy equipment or special skills needed.  Okay – let’s be honest…mild temperatures are really desired, too!

April weather can a bit unpredictable.  Temperatures in Minnesota can waver between bitter and beautiful. The highest recorded temperature in April for St. Cloud was 96 degrees, measured on April 20, 1980, while the coldest day reported in St. Cloud was -3° registered back on April 4, 1975. 

This sort of weather pattern has become all too familiar for BLEND. You see, BLEND is the sponsor for the Earth Day Run Kids Health & Fitness Expo and the 1K Youth Run which occurs on the third Friday in April and every year we wonder (ahem…worry) what the weather will bring. If memory serves you well, the weather for the last few Earth Day Run events have been a roller coaster ride. In 2012 it was GORGEOUS!  In 2013, St. Cloud reported it’s snowiest April on record with 12 inches falling just before our Earth Day Run events. And, last year in 2014, the mercury only hit a high of 40º (barely!)

The big question is…what will April 2015 bring? 

Earth Day Run Weather

Cue the runners and walkers

So far, the weather this spring has been relatively welcoming for runners/walkers (r/w) with temperatures reaching above average (“knock on wood!”)  There was a little hiccup with some snow fall and high winds in March but overall who could complain. 

When temperatures warm up – people tend to warm up to conditioning. More and more people lace up their shoes to get outdoors and hit the pavement.  This new (or renewed) sense of commitment and enthusiasm not only builds endurance – it also encourages r/w to dash to event sites to plan out their race season. Some are registering for their first 5K or looking to add another race bib to their growing collection…while others are simply participating in run/walk events for well-being or to socialize with family and friends.

Earth Day Run and BLEND are the happy recipients of the warmer temperatures and budding eagerness. Registration is up on all Earth Day Run events; including the BLEND 1K Youth Run. And, we’re seeing an influx of families coming to the BLEND website to register their child for the BLEND Fit Kids Club Series.

Let Earth Day Run kick-start your running season!   

If you let the frigid temperatures slow you down this winter – now is the time to get ready!  Run/walk into this race season with BLEND and thousands of local r/w on a quest to move more than ever before. Give yourself something to look forward to and work toward.  When you’re ready, reward your training efforts at a local race event.  Earth Day Run at St. Cloud State University (Friday & Saturday, April 17-18, 2015) is the perfect venue!  

Earth Day Run has an event for everyone!  If you’re an avid runner – you may be interested in the SCHEELS Half Marathon or the SCHEELS Half Marathon Relay held on Saturday (8:30 a.m.)  If you’re looking to run/walk with friends and family or run a personal best – look to participate in the Friday night St. Cloud Subaru 5K Run/Walk (April  6:30 p.m.)  If you have little ones (12 and younger) – bring them with you on Friday night for the BLEND 1K Youth Run (6 p.m.)  Don’t forget to register them first

The registration fee for the BLEND 1K Youth Run is only $10 and includes an awesome t-shirt and finisher medal!  What’s more impressive than the affordable price tag is that the BLEND 1K offers a special kind of excitement and energy for our young r/w. The race takes place on Husky Stadium (this is really cool!)  Local celebrity mascots entertain the kids in preparation for the race. Then, once the race begins, the mascots quickly join the hundreds and hundreds of family members and race enthusiasts to cheer on the r/w as they cross the finish line. This is definitely one of those proud moments you’ll want to capture!


No matter what the weather brings – we are looking forward to seeing you at Earth Day Run!  Be sure to stop by and say “HI” to us at the BLEND Kids Health & Fitness Expo at SCSU’s Halenbeck Hall South Fieldhouse – Friday, April 17th, 2015 (2-7 p.m.)

See you at Earth Day Run!

No Joke! April Snacks They’ll Love

March 31, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Snacks They'll Love

It’s no joke. After-school, pre-packaged snacks are sugary, salty and packed with calories.

Build a better snack for you and your family. Inspire kids to concoct their own customized snacking mixes while shopping with NuVal scores. Help them to find low-sugar, high fiber cereals and other high-scoring ingredients to make their own snack packs. Here are some good “nutritious” ideas…

  • Trade chips and pretzels (NuVal 17) for dry whole-grained cereals (from NuVal 37 to 58)
  • Sweeten with raisins (NuVal 88) or dried apricots (NuVal 91) — use in moderation
  • Add energy with unsaturated fats, protein, fiber and vitamins with raw walnuts (NuVal 84) and almonds (NuVal 84) or pumpkin and sunflower seeds (NuVal 84)
  • Season the mix with sea salt, curry, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, or cayenne pepper. The kids can even invent their own spice mix

Mix all snack ingredients together and portion out in storage bags or containers.

Make April Snackin’ Good

Do you crave a good crunch?

The NuVal® Nutritional Scoring System suggests looking for nutrition-packed snack options with NuVal scores of 35 or more – the higher the NuVal score, the better the nutrition. Use NuVal scores to find many more high-scoring snacks. Here are a few of NuVal’s favorites (also suggested by MyPlate.gov):

  • 3 cups air-popped popcorn (no fat added) with seasoned salt
  • 10-15 tortilla chips (NuVal score range 31 to 43) with 1/4 cup black bean and corn salsa (NuVal 48)
  • 1 medium apple, orange or pear
  • 3 cups raw vegetables (NuVal 100) with 1 tablespoon black bean and corn salsa (NuVal 48)
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup low-fat yogurt (NuVal score range from 28 to 48)

April Value

Watch for fresh spring value. Buying produce when it is in-season is a better buy. It has more flavor and is typically cheaper. Fresh produce like asparagus (NuVal 100) and strawberries (NuVal 100) typically pit better price points as they come in season. Consider buying in quantity and freezing for future use.

All, or part, of the blog content is provided by NuVal, LLC – a BLEND community partner.

Spring into Greens

March 25, 2015 by · 1 Comment 


One of the most consistent findings in nutrition research is that those who consume higher amount of vegetables (and fruits) have not only lower rates of heart disease and stroke, but also reduced risk of several types of cancer.

Green vegetables are recognized as one of the most inexpensive sources of so many important nutrients. Green vegetables are low in calories and fats and are loaded with good amounts of vitamins and minerals. With rich sources of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamins C, E, K, and many of the B vitamins – green vegetables provide the body with the nutrients it needs for top performance and function.

Green vegetables help keep our immune system strong. They contain phyto-nutrients, also called antioxidants, which help protect our cells from harmful internal inflammation which may lead to many chronic diseases.

Green Vegetables

Green vegetables consistently score high on the NuVal scale due to all the nutrients; along with no added salt, sugar, or fat. 

  • Asparagus, Green beans, Broccoli score a perfect NuVal 100!  
  • Cabbage, Celery, Collard greens…100!  
  • Romaine Lettuce, Spinach, Okra…yep – 100! 
  • Zucchini, Green Peppers, Snap Peas and Cucumbers…you guessed it – 100!  

A few green vegetables do score less then 100 but still scoring a high NuVal number.  For example, iceberg lettuce scores a 94 while the avocado scores a NuVal 89.

This spring get inspired to eat more GREEN vegetables 

With so many green vegetables to pick from and so many ways to prepare them – it’s easy and affordable to eat the recommended 5-7 servings of fresh vegetables every day.  Explore green vegetables and see for yourself how easy it is to incorporate more into your diet.  Green vegetables can be served fresh – making great salads and snacks. Some green vegetables are great roasted (with a little garlic and olive oil) while others are excellent steamed or grilled.

Use green vegetables as the main dish or entrée. Try a healthy spinach salad topped with grilled meat, fish or seafood. If you like a little flare in your salad, make a southwest-style salad with green peppers, black beans, corn and avocado – then top with a fresh tomato, cilantro and onion salsa.  Pair salad greens with whole grains like quinoa or pasta – it’ll add a nice nutty flavor and keep you feeling full longer. Here’s a good one – toss a salad with fruit, nuts and feta cheese then top with a simple vinaigrette.

Apple-Feta Tossed Salad
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves (NuVal 84)
  • 1 tablespoons butter (NuVal 2)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 5 cups torn romaine lettuce, spinach or any leafy green (NuVal 100)
  • 1 medium green apple, chopped (NuVal 100), pears (NuVal 100), or raspberries (NuVal 94)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (NuVal 24)
  • Dressing: Look for a high scoring vinaigrette or make your own. We like Litehouse Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette Dressing (NuVal 20)

1. In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add walnuts; sprinkle with sugar and pepper. Stir until well coated.
2. Spread walnuts on a baking sheet. Bake 350° until lightly browned (about 15 minutes), stir every 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
3. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, apples and feta cheese; set aside.
4. Drizzle dressing over salad; toss to coat. Sprinkle with walnuts.
Serves: 5

We hope you enjoy this recipe!

Final thought…every color of vegetable has a different array of vitamins, minerals, and phyto-nutrients; so eating a rainbow of produce throughout the week will provide your body with many of the beneficial nutrients it needs to stay healthy.  If you’re striving to get more vegetables into your meal plan – go for GREENS today to help you get on a path to stay fit and healthy!

Next Page »