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Cali Owings, Published July 11 2013

Dakota Medical Foundation awards $350,000 in grants to local organizations

FARGO – The Dakota Medical Foundation kick-started some big ideas Wednesday when it awarded $350,000 in grants to nine local organizations with innovative programming.

The grants are part of the foundation’s first-ever “Breakthrough Idea Challenge” contest.

In January 2012, the DMF called on groups to submit their ideas and 76 applied for funding. The winners whose ideas touch a variety of health and social issues were announced Wednesday morning.

The goal of the Breakthrough Idea Challenge is to move from “incremental change to exponential change” and work to “solve problems rather than treat symptoms,” DMF President Pat Traynor said.

Youth initiatives that were focused on healthy living and fighting childhood obesity received $140,000 in grants.

The DMF’s grants reflect a three-pronged approach to fighting childhood obesity in schools, day cares and places of worship.

North Dakota State University Extension Service was awarded $50,000 to increase health education and promotion in the area’s faith communities. North Dakota ranks second in the nation for religious adherence, making the state’s faith communities a good place to encourage healthy habits among adults and children, DMF leaders said.

As Traynor joked, small changes like switching out parish staples like hot dish and donuts for healthier options could have an impact.

The foundation also funded a $45,000 grant for the SchoolsAlive! physical activity program that will train teachers and other school staff members to implement more physical activity before, during and after school.

The initiative, a partnership between NDSU and Concordia College, will bring students studying to be physical education teachers into local elementary schools to work with school staff and develop physical activity programs.

To ensure that children develop healthy habits before they start school, the DMF awarded $45,000 to TNT Kid’s Fitness to create “movement labs” that will travel to area child care providers. The labs will teach caregivers how to incorporate movement into daily activities in an effort to curb childhood obesity.

A TNT Kid’s Fitness survey of local children found that 57 percent of girls and 36 percent of boys are obese based on their body mass index.

“As parents, we want more for our kids,” said Kim Pladson, TNT’s executive director.

TNT Kid’s Fitness started inviting child care providers into their gym space a few years ago and now they have a waitlist of providers.

Pladson said the mobile program will be able to reach more children in child care centers throughout the area.

Other DMF grant award winners include:

E $50,000 to the Community Violence Intervention Center in Grand Forks to increase collaboration between domestic and sexual violence intervention centers throughout North Dakota.

E $40,000 for information technology training for area nonprofits through Summit Group Software’s Virtual CIO program.

E $40,000 for Alexa’s Hope to increase the number of registered organ donors in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, and attempt to set a world record for the most organ donor registrations in a single eight-hour drive.

E $30,000 for the YMCA of Cass and Clay Counties to implement a “7 Mindsets” curriculum to help youths “pursue their dreams and make a positive difference.”

E $25,000 for FirstLink to create a comprehensive database of community resources in areas such as suicide prevention, elderly care and services for physically handicapped people.

E $25,000 for the Social Entrepreneur Student Adventure program that gives students an opportunity to improve health and wellness in the community.

Based on the success of the first year, the DMF will continue the grant program and has set aside $500,000 for another Breakthrough Idea Challenge.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599