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Cook County local businesses, volunteers and grants provide Community Education Youth Sports with 100% of equipment, coaching, and support

Nov 06, 2023 08:11AM ● By Content Editor

Photos provided by Krista Olson

By Laura Durenberger-Grunow - Boreal Community Media - November 3, 2023

The ISD#166 Community Education youth sports program is a testament to the power of community. From donated equipment and grant funding to volunteer coaches and concessions, the program relies on the community's support to provide affordable and accessible sports opportunities for kids of all ages.

Krista Olson, Early Childhood & Community Education Coordinator, told Boreal Community Media that she recently cleaned out and created a new storage space for sports equipment, and "Realized that 100% of everything in there has been purchased through donated funds from the community, grants that were written, equipment donated by local businesses as well as from the participation fees for the program (which we have been able to keep quite low due to all the local community support). It's really remarkable to see all the support in this small community."


Support from local businesses

One example of this support is Joynes Ben Franklin's donation of over $1500 in brand new balls and buckets for the youth baseball and softball programs. Local businesses like Cook County Home Center, Grand Marais Family Dentist, Grand Marais State Bank, Red Pine Realty, Sawbill Outfitters, AmericInn Tofte, Jewelers of the North Shore, The Title Team, Amy Jordahl State Farm, and North County Cottages all sponsored baseball and softball teams, raising $3600. Mike's Holiday donated $400 towards the newly created K-3 Cheer Squad program, and Kids Plus in Grand Marais donated $800 to help purchase uniforms for the Squad.


In terms of grants, Olson shared that two major ones have come in, including one from USA Football which went towards purchasing new football equipment and jerseys. Skyport Lodge pitched in and helped pay for printing on the new jerseys, as well as sponsored the dinner for youth football. In addition, "A separate national grant was secured last year to start our new girl's softball program, and all of our equipment was donated by the Pitch in for Baseball & Softball program. The local Subway branch provided a donation to help purchase jerseys for the girl's softball program."


Community volunteer support

In addition to financial support, the community also provides essential volunteer support. Volunteers coach ALL of the youth sports programs, and the community comes together to help with everything from setting up and running concessions to announcing games. Olson specifically gave a shoutout to Matt Stone, owner of Unimoose Enterprises LLC in Grand Marais, who donated his welding services to put brackets on our new Little League scoreboard and fix basketball carts; Gary and Ann Jorgenson, who donate so much of their time and money to make youth sports a success (Gary was instrumental in getting the new Little League scoreboard installed and Ann is always willing to set up and run the concessions to make our youth games a great experience); and Norman Moe, who donated his time and voice to announce our youth football home games. 

This community support is essential to the success of the Community Education youth sports program (which serves Preschool to 6th grade). It allows the program to keep participation fees low and provides kids with the opportunity to learn new skills, have fun, and make friends in a safe and supportive environment. While Community Education is a department under the school district, it operates with its own budget. "It works a lot more like a 501c3 in that we have to raise our own funds to support our own programs when it comes to youth sports. There are some areas of the budget that get minimal funding such as school readiness, early childhood family education, and preschool screening, but those are restricted funds," Olson said. 

How to Support the Program

There are many ways to support the Community Education youth sports program. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make a monetary donation. Donations can be made out to ISD166 Community Education, with the memo line specifying what program you wish to support.
  • Donate new sports equipment. The program follows guidelines for expired sports equipment, so it's best to donate new equipment.
  • Volunteer your time. The program relies on volunteers to coach teams, set up and run concessions, and help with other tasks.
  • Spread the word about the program. Encourage other community members to support the program financially, with equipment donations, or with their time.

To learn more about the ISD #166 Community Education Youth Sports Programs, visit:

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