Without a lacrosse field of their own, youth teams in the Lower Sioux Indian Community in southwestern Minnesota have been traveling more than two hours to play in tournaments in South Dakota.
But the kids will soon be able to play closer to home, thanks to a $100,000 award from the Super Bowl host committee's grant program. The tribe is using the funds to build its own lacrosse field, resurface a gymnasium floor and update equipment in a community kitchen to teach tribal members healthy cooking habits.
"We're very hopeful this is going to have a significant impact on us," said Brian Pendleton, president of the Lower Sioux Indian Community's tribal council. "All communities are striving to become healthier and have some better fitness opportunities."
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Throughout the past year, the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund has awarded $5.5 million to projects that are dedicated to improving the health of children in underserved communities. The funding includes $1 million from the NFL; the host committee raised the rest through philanthropic donations.
The projects include an outdoor ice rink and skate park in the city of Roseau, on the northernmost edge of the state; programs to create sustainable, healthy food choices for residents on Minnesota's Indian reservations; a wellness hub that will offer health services and classes to people in Minneapolis' predominantly Somali neighborhood; and playgrounds for kids on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, where some children's only option for outside play is currently along busy highways.
Dana Nelson, vice president of community and legacy partnerships for the host committee, said the committee gave out one grant a week — a total of 52 grants — in the year leading up to Super Bowl 52. The committee also decided to invest in programs around the state, not just in the Twin Cities, and worked with the Minnesota Department of Health to identify areas where health disparities were the worst.
Nearly 80 percent of the grants will impact children living at or below the state poverty line; 70 percent are serving kids of color, the host committee said.
"These are capital grants. They are going to new projects," Nelson said. "Five, seven, 10 years from now, kids will be enjoying all of this ... probably without any idea it was connected to the Super Bowl, and that's fine. We want them to be moving, eating produce and being healthier because of these grants."
The final grant was awarded Thursday to Anwatin Middle School in Minneapolis. The school will use the $220,000 grant to upgrade its athletic field for flag football, soccer, cross country and other activities, and will also restore an Indigenous garden where students can produce nutritious foods and learn about native planting and harvesting.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell participated in a groundbreaking for the field. He said the Legacy Grant Program leaves a lasting impact in communities that host the Super Bowl — long after the game is over. School principal Ellen Shulam said "this grant will ensure that Anwatin is a school where students can learn and grow safely, for many generations."