News & Stories

NSJ, Anwatin Parents Gather for First Kick-Off Meeting

When Adventures Director Anthony Taylor attended the end-of-the-season banquets last spring for the Loppet middle school ski and bike teams a light bulb exploded in his head: we need to invite the parents in at the beginning of the season. This idea sparked the Loppet Middle School Kick-Off Meeting, which took place on Friday, September 26, for the Nellie Stone Johnson and Anwatin Middle School teams. The Northeast team will be holding its kick-off meeting in the coming weeks.

The Loppet Foundation invited the middle school athletes, their parents and their siblings for dinner at the YMCA on West Broadway in North Minneapolis. The group filled the adjoining community education rooms on the second floor. Excited young people and their parents seemed to enjoy getting to know the other families and members of the Loppet team. As the guests wrapped up their dinners Taylor addressed the group and officially welcomed them to the event, sharing with them his story about flipping around the end-of-the-year banquet to one that kicked-off the season.

NSJ parents small
NSJ Head Coach Jon Miller and Adventures Director Anthony Taylor meet with parents
allie talking cropped small
Anwatin Head Coach Allie Rykken reviews key information with parents

Anthony gave an overview of the program and then introduced me to share a few words about my role at the organization and my efforts to secure funding to expand Loppet programming and our work. One of the areas that most excites me is our engagement with the families of the youth in our programs; this event signaled a powerful step in this direction.

Anthony invited all of the parents to get involved: join the Loppet Ski Club, take ski lessons, attend events, participate in the Age Gap Relays and accompany the team on weekend trips. When he asked if any of the parents skied, some of them raised their hands; others smiled and shook their heads. The ones shaking their heads were the ones Anthony cajoled into agreeing to ski. Anthony said that for every excuse they would give to get out of trying it, he would come up with a solution!

Anthony then introduced Head Coaches Allie Rykken and Jon Miller of the Anwatin and Nellie Stone Johnson teams, respectively, and noted that they would meet with the parents while 2014 Olympian Brian Gregg took the kids to the gym for a workout. Before taking the youth downstairs, Brian shared a few words about how amazing it was that he, as a North Minneapolis resident, could train for the Olympics on trails just blocks from his house. His praise of Theodore Wirth Park, his reflections on his start in skiing and his overall inspiration made me wish I had recorded his every word. Hopefully he will be free the night of the Northeast Kick-Off Meeting!

Brian and kids stretching smallerkids listening to brian small







Brian then took all of the kids, about 30 in total, down to the gym for some games, running and stretching, leaving the parents to meet with the coaches to learn more about the season and the program.

I enjoyed sitting down with Anthony, Jon and the NSJ parents. While some of the Anwatin parents had skied before, only one of the parents of the Nellie Stone Johnson students had ever tried skiing – and she thinks it was in middle school! Anthony talked about how great it would be for the kids to see their parents out there and encouraged them to try it. As a non-native Minnesotan who had just moved back to the state last year, I shared with them how being surrounded by people who love winter changed my perspective on the season. With that sentiment in mind, I echoed Anthony’s encouragement of their getting out on skis this winter. I think we may have convinced a few of them to try it. I will look forward to writing that story, hopefully in early December when we get a ton of snow!

By Kristen Spargo


Brian and kids stretching
Anwatin student Emily and her little sister enjoy some early-evening stretching