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'Pennies for Play' carnival coming up

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The Backus Community Center and Koochiching County Department of Public Health/State Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) would like to invite and encourage the community to attend the “Pennies for Play” carnival and picnic set for April 25.

Everyone also is urged to bring their coins to dump into the large container that will be on-site.

“Every penny really does count,” said Robin Bjorkquist, event co-ordinator at Backus.

“It is very exciting to see all the coins and find out how heavy they are,” Bjorkquist added.

“You would be surprised at how challenging it is to manage this much change.”

Bjorkquist spearheaded the first “Pennies for Play” project in 2011 that replaced old playground equipment at Kerry Park in International Falls.

“I had to take a lot of coins to the bank and it is heavy!” Bjorkquist said.

“But it is also fun to watch the kids—and adults—dump all the coins into the big can.”

All funds collected will be earmarked for the purchase of new playground equipment at the city's parks.

More than $10,000 has been collected towards a $30,000 goal to replace the original play structure at Green Acres Park, located at 6th Avenue East and 17th Street.

“This project really helps the city and ultimately the community,” said Falls city administrator Ken Anderson.

“With Backus and SHIP partnering to improve our parks, it means the city can focus on other improvement projects,” he noted.

To end the “Pennies for Play” project, which started in October, 2013, Backus and SHIP will host a football-themed carnival and picnic at the park this Tuesday (April 25) starting at 12:30 p.m.

The carnival Grand Marshall is Frank Youso, an original member of the Minnesota Vikings' inaugural team of 1961.

Also attending will be special secret guests from the Metro, as well as our own Bronco mascot and Bronco cheerleaders.

The event will feature football-themed games, with a picnic lunch served at 12:30 p.m.

The formal presentation and exciting announcement will take place at 1 p.m.

Guest speakers will include a representative from Minneapolis, Ward Merrill from the Backus Community Center, Derek Foss of Koochiching County Public Health, and Tara Besch of the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership.

Toni Korpi, a school board member and owner of Small Talk Childcare, also will speak of the real importance of this project to youth and the community.

“I wish we could share the details of why this is so exciting,” said Foss, a public health supervisor.

“But we've been sworn to secrecy so the community will just have to show up on Tuesday and find out what all the hype is about.”

The carnival and picnic are open to the public.

In case of inclement weather, the event will be moved to Backus Community Center.

This family-friendly event not only features games and a free lunch, but will include an extreme fan costume contest.

Attendees are encouraged to dress in their best purple and gold, Bronco or Minnesota Vikings' apparel, and enter to win a prize for the best costume.

For more information about this event or the “Pennies for Play” project, contact Bjorkquist at the Backus Community Center (900 5th St.) or by calling (218) 285-7225.

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