Healthy snacks, snack mascots, prizes at Healthy Kids Run at RHS

September 13, 2012 // 0 Comments

West Michigan Action for Healthy Kids: Race for Healthy Kids has been recognized as a quality physical activity event by the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness. West Michigan Action for Healthy Kids (WMAHK) is holding the third annual Race For Healthy Kids 5K run or walk and Kids Fun Run on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. at Rockford High School. This family fun event, for both children and adults, is an opportunity to promote physical activity, being active as a family, and good nutrition. Following the 5K walk or run will be a Fun Run just for kids. Kids will run around the Rockford High School track and will be joined by fruit and vegetable characters and other motivating mascots. Prizes will be awarded to the top “banana” and medals to the top three runners in each age group as well as awards for all Fun Run participants. Healthy snacks from each food group, such as low-fat milk, low-fat cheese, whole grain cereal bars, carrots, apples, and water will be provided to participants. There is a $20 pre-registration fee for the 5K walk/run event ($10 student rate) and a $5 fee for the Fun Run. Registration forms can be downloaded from Completed forms and registration fees can be done online or dropped off or mailed to Dawn Davies at the Kent County Health Department, 700 Fuller Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. WMAFHK is a nonprofit volunteer network fighting childhood obesity and undernourishment by working with schools and families to improve nutrition and physical activity to help our kids learn to eat right, be active every day and ready to learn. The Governor’s Council endorses local, regional and state events to acknowledge an organization’s ability to plan and carry out a quality event that significantly contributes to the health and well being of Michigan residents. West Michigan Action for Healthy Kids: Race for Healthy Kids exemplifies this core value and is endorsed by the Governor’s Council. “By endorsing local events all across the state, we hope to bring attention to the importance of physical activity and encourage our citizens to take responsibility for their health,” said Marilyn Lieber, president and CEO of the Governor’s Council. “These local events can have a tremendous impact on […]

Bikes and Smiles were the order of the day at Wolverine Worldwide YMCA

September 6, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL The Kent County Sheriff Department, in collaboration with the Wolverine Worldwide YMCA and Devos Children’s Hospital Safe Kids Coalition, conducted a bicycle give-a-way and safety event for 29 area children on Tuesday, August 28. Making it all possible were 29 new or gently used bikes that had come into the possession of the Kent County Sheriff Department. Bikes needing repair were completely refurbished to safe operating conditions by Kent County Jail inmates. “The inmates take a great sense of pride and ownership by playing a part in this worthwhile program,” said Sheriff Larry Stelma who was on hand for the give-a-way event. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved today including the inmates.” “The 29 children chosen to be recipients of the bikes had been identified by the Wolverine Worldwide YMCA as area kids who lack the financial means to afford a bicycle,” said Toni Szczepanski, Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator for the Rockford area YMCA. Thrilled kids received an age appropriate bicycle that had been previously tagged for them, and them alone. Before they were allowed to test-drive their bikes around the parking lot, the kids had a sit-down bike safety lesson. After which, each was personally fitted with a brand-new bicycle helmet provided by Devos Children’s Hospital Safe Kids Coalition. Personally attending to that task was Amy Horn, the hospital’s Safe Kids Program Assistant. With helmet in place, each kid on his new ride headed through a mock riding course, complete with orange cones, which had previously been set up by Sheriff Deputies. Also on hand were two Deputies and their beautiful chestnut horses from the Kent County Sheriff’s Mounted Unit. For some of the kids (Sienna Gorby, 8, in particular) the horses were the highlight of the day. “Today’s presentation was but one of many community service and outreach events provided by the Kent County Sheriff Department every year,” said Sheriff Stelma. As the afternoon’s festivities drew to a close, the new bicycle owners loaded the bikes up to return home for many years of out-of-doors riding pleasure. Enjoy kids, and to quote Roy Rogers (and Fred Meijer) “Happy trails to you”.                

Remodeled, expanded gym a first-class facility

September 6, 2012 // 0 Comments

“It’s wonderful to be part of a community that is always trying to grow and improve, expand,” said Tim Chesla, owner of NorthStar Gymnastics Inc., now in its 18th year at 723 Byrne Industrial Drive. In fitting with a town that is always updating, remodeling and celebrating growth, NorthStar is wrapping up a months-long remodeling project in the 8,500-square-foot facility. Chesla said the ache in his back is proof of the major work begun on Friday, July 20, is almost complete. The spacious, airy building has had a wall removed, doors taken out, and the apparatus areas reconfigured to provide a safer, more productive gymnastics facility. Now parents can sit in a relaxed and comfortable viewing area without students crowding through as they move from one section of equipment to another. Old-time Byrne employees likely wouldn’t recognize the former tool and die building, located in the heart of what the Squire jokingly refers to as the “Byrne Kingdom.” Chesla describes how he came to set up shop in the location. He had a thriving gymnastics business located in Riverview Raquetball Club, but that company needed the space to expand. “Many of our customers were from Rockford and the surrounding areas, so it made sense to move up this way,” Chesla explained. He met Norm Byrne and the two began talking about possibilities. In the matter of a few months a new tool and die building was attached to Byrne Electric Building, the old tool and die shop was remodeled, an addition was put on, gymnastic equipment was moved in, and NorthStar Gymnastics Inc. was up and jumping. Things have been hurdling right along ever since. “The whole northern Kent County area seems to be really into their kids, into a well-rounded growing up,” said Chesla. He said when the doors at NorthStar opened, the gym was immediately at capacity. “We opened and we outgrew. The facility expanded into an unused room and in June 1995 we added on again.” Today NorthStar is using every inch of square space and with the reconfigured work stations, better than ever able to meet the needs of clients with a top-of-the-line facility right here in the heart of the area. “You don’t have to leave the Rockford area to […]

Rockford woman a repeat offender in random acts of kindness

September 6, 2012 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA At age 64, Vern Criner is “the baby here” at Richter Place Apartments, a fair housing complex for residents age 62 and older. Julie Carr, 74, is his senior by 10 years. When she heard that the relative newcomer to the complex wished he had a bedspread, she sprang into action. With arthritis gloves to keep her hands warm and ward off cramping, Carr spent two months and used 22 skeins of yarn to create a bedcover fit for royalty. In the effort she spent in making and giving this huge cover—it measures nine feet two inches by six feet ten inches—Carr didn’t do anything she hasn’t done a thousand times before. Carr began crocheting about 47 years ago when she picked up a pin lace project of her sister, Mary. Carr was intrigued by the piece and tried her hand at it, lacing a row or two. “When I heard my sister coming I put it right down,” Carr described. She said her sister looked at her work and asked her what she thought she had been doing. “I said, ‘Nothing, I didn’t touch it,’ but she knew and pulled all my work out,” Carr said. Now her sister has since passed away, but after that introduction Carr took up the hobby herself and has been crocheting nearly five decades. “She gives to everyone,” said Carr’s best friend, referring not just to crocheted works but also of friendship and time. Seventy-six-year-old Shirley Heiman has been at Richter Place going on seven years. She said many of the residents at Richter Place have mementos of Carr’s generosity—towels, blankets, afghans, sweaters, pot holders, bottle holders, throws and covers. Residents give her the yarn or she buys her own. Heiman and Carr both say they enjoy their new friendship with Criner. Like other residents at the facility, he brings a surprising mix of talents. Criner’s floral designs grace the dining area at Richter Place. Some of his paintings have been purchased by a local hospital which displays them in reception areas. “He is just the sweetest man and we enjoy his company,” Heiman said. It isn’t only to people she knows that Carr extends her gifts of crochet. Carr heard from her church, Lake […]

‘Discover Pickerel’ needs volunteers

September 6, 2012 // 0 Comments

Help defend the natural habitats at Pickerel Lake Park/Fred Meijer Nature Preserve against an alien invader! Kent/MSU Extension Master Naturalist program is partnering with Kent County Parks to host an Autumn Olive Control Project at Pickerel Lake on Saturday, October 6 from 9 a.m. to noon and 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. An orientation is included and all materials and tools are supplied. Pickerel Lake Park provides visitors with the opportunity to hike and cross-country ski throughout woodlands, forests, wetlands and around the lake. Floating boardwalks and docks provide excellent locations for fishing, bird watching or just enjoying the beautiful natural areas of this nature preserve. Unfortunately, Autumn Olive is threatening the various habitats at Pickerel Lake. This alien invader or invasive plant species out-competes native species, has berries that provide a poor energy source for migrating birds and increases the nitrogen levels in the soil, affecting entire communities of plants, trees and wildlife. If you are interested in working with a team of volunteers to make a difference at beautiful Pickerel Lake, please register for the Autumn Olive Control Project, either the a.m. or p.m. session, by contacting Ginny Sines, Kent County Parks Volunteer Services, at or call (616) 336-3884.      

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