The Edina Community Foundation’s Connecting with Kids program honors community members who make an impact on the lives of young people.
Fulfilling the Edina Community Foundation’s mission to serve, strengthen and celebrate the community, Connecting with Kids was established as a way to help promote a healthy environment for Edina youth.
Founded in 1998, the program was developed through a partnership with the Edina Asset Building Steering Community and Minneapolis-based Institute. After conceptualizing “40 developmental assets” for creating a healthy community, they identified areas where community members could help achieve excellence with youth.
“This program focuses on the lives of youth,” leader of Connecting with Kids Patty Dronen says. “It is trying to make Edina a place for kids to live, play and learn.”
Recognizing individuals who actively participate in administering the growth of our younger generation, the program honors awardees—nominated by community members—for their community contributions at an annual leadership breakfast.
Edina native and athletic booster Dan Arom returned to his old stomping grounds in 2009 to coach his son’s team through the Edina Football Association (EFA). Through his involvement over the years he’s served as the treasurer, vice president and president of EFA and eventually joined the Edina Athletic Booster Club in 2015 and has served as president.
As someone whose parents immigranted from Thailand, Arom says that the Edina community has afforded him a great life which is why he chooses to be involved so that he can provide similar experiences for others.
“I really enjoy the community and I think it is an amazing place for all,” he says. “I am happy to give back and give others the opportunity, I think it is the best use of my time.”
As one who credits his successes to his utter passion for football, he says that the award was unexpected.
“I was super humbled,” Arom says. “To me it [his volunteering] was just something fun to do.”
President of Her Next Play, Sara Wegman strives to empower young girls by providing them with the tools to confidently launch careers through the skillsets they learn in their competitive extracurriculars.
As an experiential-based nonprofit, Her Next Play recognizes female potential and inspires girls to stick with their passions so they can grow to be the powerful women that they are destined to be.
The organization was the winner of the Edina Community Foundation’s first Bold New Idea contest in 2019, the organization used the $5,000 grant award to kick start its mission and host the Edina Girls’ Sports summit for over 150 girls.
With the Edina community aiding support from the start, Wegman says they’ve had a solid launch pad to make the organization what it is today. In its first year, Her Next Play won the 2020 Afton Play Institute Project Play champions award and the Junior Varisty (student-led) board members received the Mayor’s Youth Service Commendation for 2020.
“We are really fortunate to have the Edina community foundation and the resources of the community,” Wegman says.
The Gump Family
Building friendships with communities globally, the Gump family is committed to learning new customs and experiencing different cultures.
As part of the Rotary Student Exchange Program, the Gump family has opened their home to students from France, Czech Republic, South Korea, Belgium, India and Spain. The program allows up to 120 students (60 inbound and 60 outbound) from around the world to stay with a total of three different families in the same community over the course of nine months.
Building strong relationships with the individuals and their families, Tom Gump says that the best part is that “you get to have children all around the world.”
As the first family (as opposed to an individual) to receive this award, Gump says it means a lot because it came from people in the community that he highly respects.
“I just think that the Edina community is very supportive,” Gump says. “The world seems like a better place when you have the whole community helping. It makes you feel connected to the world.”
Beginning his career in corporate communications and marketing, Chris Moquist decided he wanted to be his own boss.
Drawing inspiration from his grandfather’s South Dakota creamery that also served fresh donuts, he wanted to redevelop the same beloved recipe. Opening Yoyo Donuts, one of few peanut and tree nut-free bakeries in the nation, Moquist created a place that was happy, comfortable and fun for kids, whom make up a majority of his customer base.
Expanding his expertise beyond the bakery, Moquist ventured into the classroom. Discussing topics of budgeting and production with students in kindergarten through 12th grade; he says that each experience is rewarding because he knows that he is making learning more fun, digestible and relatable.
Moquist hopes to see a program develop within Edina Public Schools that will encourage local community members to volunteer their time, expertise and skillsets to help youth explore their interests and enhance exposure to real-world instances.
Student award winner and senior at Edina High School, Matthew Hovelsrud is nothing short of extraordinary.
Beginning his community involvement as a freshman, he was a tutor once a week through the Study Buddy Program at Creek Valley Elementary School and assisted at STEM enrichment camps the following two summers.
Volunteering over 140 hours over the course of two summers, he’s been a park program leader; a student board member at Edina Give and Go; a member of Mosaic, a student group that works with citizens and administrative leaders to find healthy solutions to difficult problems in the community; and has been active in Model UN and the school newspaper.
Hovelsrud says it is fulfilling to see kids grow in their own ways. “Kids are some of the most creative, inventive, smart and unique people out there,” he says.
After being recognized by his community at a young age, Hovelsrud explains how the most meaningful aspect of the experience was the realization that there are so many organizations and people present in the community invested in giving back.
“Although only a handful were recognized it was such an important, gracious and powerful group, I am very proud to say that I was a part of it,” he says.
Jaime Gaard Chapman
Edina native and former high school basketball and tennis star, Jaime Gaard Chapman is continuing her legacy at her alma mater as the new girl’s head coach for both teams.
Stemming from a love of being involved with a team, she says that some of her greatest experiences and lessons came from being an athlete; which gives her a unique perspective in her role.
With the intent of maintaining the integrity and excellence of Edina Athletics that everyone knows and loves, Gaard Chapman says that can only be achieved if she focuses on the culture of the environment and youth development.
“I focus on what is relatable,” she says. “Always acknowledging that it is not just about the sport that you are coaching but the lives that you are influencing.”
As the founder of Gaard Performance Academy, she works with athletes as young as 4 years old through college age to prepare them for a life beyond sports. Using a strength-based approach, Gaard Chapman focuses on health and fitness, mental performance training and academic coaching.
With her career coming full circle, she describes this surreal experience as icing on the cake to her athletic career.
“I am so appreciative of the opportunities that I have had since coming home in my community,” she says. “I’m thrilled to be such a positive role model and mentor for young athletes, and I hope to be around for a very long time.”
Passionate about fitness and working with kids, retired Cornelia Physical Education teacher of 27 years Michael Weinkauf devoted his career to promoting health and wellness to Edina youth.
At a time when education is at a crossroad due to COVID-19, Weinkauf hopes the attention to physical education remains despite trying times.
“Kids need to play, they need to move,” Weinkauf says. “It’s not just about their physical development but about their emotional and mental development as well.”
Caring for the well-being of his students, Weinkauf explains that he chose to teach at Edina because of its quality of education, the support provided for staff members, the parental involvement and the emphasis of art, music and physical education.
Recognized for his dedication to kids, Weinkauf says that it meant even more to be given the award from a former student of his, “It added a bit more flavor.”
“It means a lot to have such a great impact,” he says. “There could be no better retirement send off than to be recognized for what I did.”