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Education

Ida runners to get new home track

Local family steps up with $200,000 gift

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Ida High School track coaches Mike Bolster and Connie DuCharme join their student athletes at the school’s old cinder track. The quarter-mile track will be replaced with a synthetic rubberized surface that will enclose the football field and should be complete by the autumn of 2014.

THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
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IDA, Mich. — Ida Public Schools will get a new state-of-the-art track, thanks to a large donation from a longtime Monroe County resident and the fund-raising efforts of school supporters.

The rubberized quarter-mile track will have eight lanes and circumscribe the football field, Superintendent Richard Carsten said. It will replace the obsolete cinder track.

“We have not had a home meet in 15 years, which is too bad because track is a popular sport,” Mr. Carsten explained. “We have middle school and high school track, so our participation is very good.”

The superintendent said Ida’s teams were successful as well. The high school boys and girls cross country teams qualified for the state tournament this fall, and last spring, the boys and girls track teams did the same.

Mr. Carsten said he expected the school board to request bids in January and construction on the track to begin in May. The new track should be ready for the fall cross country season next year.

Fund-raising for the new track began seven years ago with a group called Friends of the Ida Track, which held lotteries and an annual Light Up the Night Run at the Christmas in Ida festival. It has raised $26,000.

The Ida Athletic Boosters also got involved, mailing more than 6,000 letters to alumni and residents soliciting donations. The group also secured donations from businesses, including Meijer, Anderson Fertilizer, Archer Daniels Midland, Teachers Credit Union, Tony’s Sons Plumbing and Heating, Waterboy Systems, Carl’s Hide-A-Way, Knabusch Insurance, and Capaul Funeral Home. By late June, a total of $236,000 had been raised, well short of the $400,000 cost of the new track.

Then LaSalle Township residents Ron and Helen Hemelgarn came forward with a $200,000 gift. In recognition of their generosity, the school’s football field will be named after them. The only condition the Hemelgarns attached to the donation is that the track be available for the entire Ida schools community to use.

Mr. Hemelgarn is the owner of Super Fitness health clubs in Toledo. He said he has lived in Monroe County for 38 years, reared his family there, and saw the need in Ida for a new track.

“Childhood obesity is at an all-time high, and we do need to get the kids moving so they don’t get diabetes or heart disease. If every day every student would just go out there and walk, this would improve their physical fitness and their self-esteem,” he said.

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