News & Stories

Loppet Volunteer, Coach and Board Member Receives Local Public Health Hero Award

The Loppet Foundation congratulates Leroy Leftwich on being awarded the Local Public Health Hero Award through the Minneapolis Health Department. The award recognizes the accomplishments of community partners whose service to public health activities transforms and strengthens the lives of our residents and visitors. Public Health Local Heroes, like Leroy, hold critical roles in making Minneapolis a healthier place to live, work and play. Leroy was nominated by Mark Trumper, fellow coach and teacher at Pillsbury, and will be accepting the award on behalf of the Loppet Foundation on Tuesday, April 5th.

In addition to being a volunteer, participant, and Foundation Board Member, Leroy is a volunteer coach for the Minne-Loppet program at Pillsbury Elementary in North Minneapolis. Leroy volunteers two days every week for the Minne-Loppet, teaching 4th and 5th grade students how to ski. This year alone, Leroy taught 180 students to ski through the Pillsbury program. “He is like a school grandpa, gentle and patient but you don’t want to disappoint him. The kids absolutely love Leroy,” said Mark.

The Minne-Loppet is a 10-week program run by the Loppet Foundation focused on getting 3rd-5th grade students from North Minneapolis outside and active by teaching cross-country skiing and health and wellness skills. Loppet volunteer coaches come to the physical education classroom, providing equipment and teaching the beginner level skills of cross-country skiing. Thanks to the sponsorship from UCare, at Pillsbury Elementary students ski on trails groomed by the Foundation in Windom Park, adjacent to the school. At the end of the program, youth participate in the Minne-Loppet event at the City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival. Since 2003, more than 6,000 North Minneapolis elementary school students have learned to ski through the Minne-Loppet program.

When he’s not participating in a Loppet event or teaching kids to ski through the Minne-Loppet program, Leroy volunteers at Pillsbury Elementary teaching every 4th grader how to ride a bike each fall and spring. Mark explains that “30 or more 4th graders start the year with zero experience riding a bike. Leroy is the guy that teaches all the newbies. In the spring, we go on an all-day biking field trip to practice our new biking skills and learn about the Mississippi River. None of this could happen without Leroy.”

Leroy leads by example. In his mid-60s, Leroy lives a healthy, active life skiing, road biking, running, and Nordic walking. He is an inspiration for us all, young and old.

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