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Hudson Community Foundation names 3 SPARK finalists

Executive Director of Space St. Croix Christopher Mick, who is a SPARK grant finalist, is pictured with Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke at the fourth annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, Minn. Photo courtesy of Chris Close

The Hudson Community Foundation (HCF) has selected three finalists for its 2018 SPARK grant program. Hudson residents are encouraged to attend an Oct. 23 meeting from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the RCU Discovery Center at Camp St. Croix to hear the finalists present their projects for consideration.

The winner of the HCF SPARK Grant this year will receive $10,000 toward realizing their goal. Project SPARK was created to ignite positive change and improve the already great city of Hudson.

Creating pickleball courts

The Hudson Community Pickleball Association (HCPA) was established in the fall of 2017 with the purpose to organize pickleball players and promote the sport to the larger population. A major objective of HCPA is to increase the physical and mental health of the 55+ population that participates. Research supports the benefits of exercise and social interaction as you age; pickleball provides this. Currently there are 130 provisional HCPA members from the Hudson area with members continuing to join.

Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong played with a paddle and a lower net than tennis. Pickleball, which features a smaller court, allows for many skill levels of play from the young — where it is taught at the Hudson Middle School — to the "senior" population, where it keeps them active and social.

"Not only is pickleball a sport that all ages can play, it doesn't require a major investment, is easy to learn, and provides a social outlet. After teaching more than 200 players I have seen people fall in love with this fun but very social sport after their first lesson probably because the game is fun to learn, easy to learn, and is not expensive to play," said regional ambassador for pickleball Micheal Lammer. "This sport within a few years will be played at the NCAA and Olympic levels. We just cannot get enough courts built fast enough in the U.S. for the demand."

Hudson does not have permanent pickleball courts unlike most nearby communities: River Falls, New Richmond, Baldwin, Menomonie, Woodbury and Stillwater. The HCPA in partnership with the city of Hudson and the St. Croix YMCA is raising funds to construct four permanent pickleball courts at Anderson Park.

These courts would provide many opportunities including a "playground" for active adults, HCPA member designated court time, open court time for all ages, YMCA use and tournament possibilities.

Launching a space program for Hudson youth

This SPARK submission addresses the need for Science, Technology, Engineering & Math educational opportunities at all age levels and for all economic backgrounds to ensure Hudson students will have the skills and knowledge to succeed in the increasingly technology driven society will live in.

"(This project) addresses the need for STEM educational opportunities at all age levels and for all economic backgrounds to ensure Hudson students will have the skills and knowledge to succeed in the increasingly technology driven society we live in. With the last two state Forward Exams showing Hudson students with only 40 to 44 percent being proficient in math and science, new ways need to be found to enhance, support and expand on the STEM opportunities for all Hudson students," said Christopher Mick.

1. Early STEM Enrichment for Pre-K - 2nd Grade: This element would feature free on-site programs offered at every public, private and homeschool program with sensory, interactive and introductory programs with teacher resource packets provided for extension and differential opportunities.

2. U. S. Space Camp Scholarships for two students, in grades 4-6 from at-risk student populations (Federal Free or Reduced Price Lunch Program) to attend Space Camp for one week at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

3. Establish a chapter of Rockets for Schools at the Hudson Middle School to form a team that will compete at the Great Lakes Spaceport in Sheboygan. Student teams assemble a 6-foot rocket, design a scientific payload, present and compete as a team as their rocket travels 2,500 feet into the sky.

4. STEM Career Experience in Madison: This trip would provide for up to six 10th and 11th grade STEM Academy students to travel to the Madison headquarters of the Sierra Nevada Group (SNG) which does everything from building rocket engines, propulsion systems, in-house production of custom circuit boards, and prepares shipments of experiments for delivery to the International Space Station.

5. High School Aviation Program: for up to four students would be able to participate in the online Aero Scholars program. This program offers high school credit and is equivalent to the ground school portion of achieving a pilot's license.

New T-ball field at Hudson Town Hall

The Hudson Boosters proposal to the Hudson Community Foundation is for funding to construct a new T-ball field at the Hudson Town Hall.

"Last year, we had more than 150 children playing T-ball and we expect that trend to continue. A baseball field is something that will be used for many years, so the impact to the community is long-lasting. The addition will free up space for our older athletes, provide a safe environment for players and their families and provide a more central location for baseball in the community," said Matthew Parent.

Due to the large participation levels in Hudson, the Boosters are currently over capacity at the available venues for baseball and softball. There is an overall field shortage in Hudson which forces the club to utilize substandard venues and also makes scheduling games and practices extremely difficult for several age levels.

The Hudson Town Hall venue offers many amenities that make it the ideal location for young families utilizing the t-ball program, including:

• A large playground structure, volleyball court and open green space for siblings to play during the games

• Full concession stand with permanent, indoor bathroom facilities and drinking fountains

• Ample parking in a safe lot surrounding the fields

• The new layout of the field will provide fencing along the foul lines to separate the players from the field

The Boosters will continue to make the project spark by providing ongoing field maintenance to this field to keep it in good condition for players and spectators.