On Wednesday, September 6, I had the opportunity to be a part of something pretty special.
Tonya Keim was going to be recognized as the KTTC AmaZing Woman, and I was asked to come and say a few words about Tonya’s contributions to our community and how she has impacted the lives of others.
The KTTC TV crew was slated to arrive at Harmony Kids Learning Center, where Tonya Keim works, to interview myself, Jane Kingsley, Umbelina Cremer, and Louise McCready (Tonya’s mother) about why Tonya deserved to be recognized as the KTTC AmaZing Woman.
I didn’t nominate Tonya for this award, but she is certainly deserving of recognition. As I jogged my memory about all of the selfless contributions to the community Tonya has initiated, it’s quite amazing indeed.
Back in 2009, when we wanted to get a youth soccer program going for Fillmore Central, Tonya Keim and Brenda Pohlman (Fillmore County Public Health) applied for a S.H.I.P. (Statewide Health Improvement Partnership) grant to invest $2,000 in brand new soccer goals and nets for the Fillmore Central Elementary School. Since that time, we’ve had hundreds of area youth participate in the summer recreation soccer program from the communities of Preston, Harmony, Fountain, Lanesboro, Chatfield, Spring Valley, and Wykoff. The youth soccer program would have been pretty hard to launch without having soccer goals.
A few years later, Tonya started a grass roots campaign to build a new playground in place of the decrepit playground that shared space with the Preston swimming pool. Initially, she encouraged everyone to vote online for the Preston playground project with hopes of winning funds from the Pepsi Refresh Project. But, with our small population, we were outnumbered in the online voting competition. However, that community collaboration became a launchpad for the Preston Park Board and City of Preston to back Tonya Kiem’s hopes and dreams for a new playground. The new playground became a reality, and is enjoyed by locals and tourists on a regular basis.
And, then there was the father-daughter dance that Tonya started at the Fillmore Central Elementary School via the ECFE program. This is still an annual tradition in the month of February, encouraging fathers to take one night out of their busy schedules to dress up in their Sundays best and take their daughter(s) out for dinner and dancing at the school. Ironically, Tonya only has sons; no daughters. But, as she would emcee the event each year, she would tell all of the fathers about how important they are in the lives of their daughters. I remember taking my daughter to this event, and it created memories for both of us to reflect upon.
Recently, on August 19, Tonya organized a family obstacle event in Harmony, Minn., similar to what you’d find on the famed TV show American Ninja Warriors. But, this obstacle course was made for kids. She was able to get support from the business community to help pay for the entire cost so no participants would have to pay. For this first year, she had more than 170 kids run through the obstacle course. That’s a lot of little ninjas!
To sum it up, Tonya certainly deserves recognition as the KTTC AmaZing Woman. She’s been an amazing selfless volunteer and leader for so many things. And, I’m sure she’s not done volunteering — there’s more to come.
I appreciate being asked to say a few words about Tonya’s contributions to our community and her impact on the lives of others.
I feel that we need to recognize volunteerism more than we do. Sometimes we take it for granted. Without volunteers, there wouldn’t be any town festivals or the Fillmore County Fair. Fire departments, ambulance departments, Lions Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, VFWs, American Legions, churches — the list goes on and on. We have so many volunteers in so many capacities. And, how often do we say thank you?
I encourage everyone to stop by Harmony Foods, Preston Foods or Rushford Foods and purchase a box of “thank you” cards. They usually come in packages of 10 per box. I keep a box of “thank you” cards in my desk drawer at the Fillmore County Journal.
And, then pick out some people who volunteer on a regular basis and surprise them with a “thank you” card in their mailbox. You’ll make their day. I guarantee it!
If you are struggling to think of a couple of people to thank, we have one person referenced in this commentary — Tonya Keim. And, there’s another KTTC AmaZing Woman award recipient in our area whom you can show appreciation. In the month of May 2017, Rushford’s Judy Christian was recognized as the KTTC AmaZing Woman. And, I guarantee there will be many others in the near future.
So, get your “thank you” cards ready! Or, better yet, volunteer!