Family Time: School is getting off to a Running Start

Families get a head start on school supplies at Running Start for School. At five locations on six days, Olmsted County families who qualify for free and reduced lunches can stop by and pick up the school supplies their K-12 students will need this fall.

"It's really a simple process. About two weeks prior to the distribution day, eligible families will receive a yellow postcard in the mail," said Deneene McDonald, United Way of Olmsted County community impact specialist. "All they need to do is to bring that postcard and a photo ID to the distribution site on distribution day."

When they arrive at the distribution site, families will be welcomed by volunteers who will walk them through the check-in and registration process. From there, it's on to pick out a new backpack and then over to get their grade-specific prepackaged kit of school supplies.

"It's very quick and easy," McDonald said. "Sometimes students come along, but mainly we tend to see just parents."

More than 7,000 students qualify for Running Start for School. Event organizers hope to reach 65 percent of eligible students, providing supplies to 4,862 youth. Helping make this goal possible is the work done by the more than 400 Running Start for School volunteers.


"We have volunteers helping out with distribution days and then there's all the work leading up to it," McDonald said. "There are tons and tons of (volunteer) positions to fill. We are so thankful for our volunteers. We absolutely couldn't do it without them."

It's all fair

Get your fill of fun and food on a stick at the Olmsted County Free Fair. Open Monday, July 22, through Sunday, July 28, families will enjoy rides (the midway opens Tuesday afternoon), the animal barns (rabbits, miniature horses, goats), activities (kids scavenger hunt, horse and pony rides, storytelling), and entertainment (Words Players youth theater, talent contest, Olmsted Sheriff's Department K-9 demonstrations). Free admission. Parking passes $5 per day or $20 for the week. Go online,, for more information.

Need to know more? If you're curious about county fairs, visit the Minnesota Federation of County Fairs website,, for a list of all the state's county fairs and their 2013 dates.


Paddle on over

Get out on the water at Quarry Hill Nature Center's Paddle on the Pond. Held from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, families can rent a canoe (paddles and lifejackets included) and take a spin around the pond. Cost is $8 for 30 minutes. You can fit up to four people in a canoe. No children under 36 months. Kids under 12 must canoe with an adult. Reservations not required. Call 507-328-3950 to find out more.

Up next? The season's final Paddle on the Pond is Aug. 18. Visit for additional details.



Sand art

Grab your shovel and pail and head over to Chester Woods' Sand Sculpture Contest on Saturday. Held at the park's beach and open to the entire family, sculpting starts at 10 a.m. with judging at 11 a.m. Free. Park admission fees apply ($5 daily, $25 for an annual pass). Call 507-775-2451 or visit for more information.

What's next? Head out on the water at Chester Woods' Moonlight Paddle program at 8:45 p.m. Monday. Families can bring their canoe or kayak and join park staff for an evening paddle on Chester Lake. Free. Park admission fees apply. Meet at the boat ramp.


Catch this

Cast a line at the Root River Trail Family Fishing program, 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Hosted by Whitewater State Park staff and held at Mill Pond (near the Root River Trailhead in Lanesboro), kids will have the opportunity to catch pan fish from the pond's fishing pier. All equipment provided. Participants 16 and older must have a fishing license with a trout stamp to participate. Free. No registration. Go online,, or call 507-932-3007 for more information.

Anything else? Reel 'em in at the I Can Fish: Trout Fishing program, 10:30 a.m. to noon on Sunday. Held at Whitewater State Park, families will meet at the South Picnic Area. Rods, reels, and tackle provided. Bring your own worms. Fishing licenses and trout stamps not required at this all ages program. I Can Fish programs are held every Sunday through Labor Day. Go online or call for additional details.


What: Running Start for School distribution dates

Where: Longfellow Choice Elementary (9 a.m. to noon July 23); Stewartville's Bonner Elementary (4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 19); Byron Community Education Building (4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20); Rochester's RCTC Field House (noon to 7 p.m. Aug. 21 and 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 22)

Phone: 507-287-1958

On the web:

More Running Start stuff

• Donations of school supplies are needed. Go online and click on "List of Supplies Needed" for a complete list. (Backpacks, washable markers, two-pocket folders, notebooks and #2 pencils are most needed.) Go online and click on "Find a Drive/Drop Location" for a list of local businesses where you can drop off your donation now through Aug. 9.

• "Stuff the Bus for Running Start for School" is 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 2 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 3 at Walmart South. Families can drop off Running Start for School donations either day.


• Families who are unsure if they qualify for Running Start for School can visit the website's "Eligibility and Distribution" webpage or call their school district's Student Nutrition Services.

• Running Start for School volunteers are needed to organize donated school supplies, assemble school supply kits and assist with distribution days as greeters, escorts or interpreters. Click on the website's "Volunteer" link where you can read volunteer job descriptions and register for a volunteer shift. It's typically a two- to three-hour commitment.

• Chatfield High School is holding its Running Start for School event from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Aug. 26. Call for more information.

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