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Snow day becomes fun day for more than 40 St. Ignatius students

By B.L. Azure

Wacy McClure has a target spotted and is about to zap them with the dodge ball. (B.L. Azure photo) Wacy McClure has a target spotted and is about to zap them with the dodge ball. (B.L. Azure photo)

ST. IGNATIUS — Schools in Montana, including the St. Ignatius school system, often have a day or two set aside each year to account for anticipated winter weather related school closures. It is a prudent thing to do. However this winter was one for the books in the sense that most of western Montana didn’t experience below-zero temperatures nor did it get a whole lot of down low snow. Consequently the day set aside for snow closures at St. Ignatius was already on the books and with no closures the district cashed in on that and rewarded the students a day off Monday.

As a result of the day off the Tribal Health and Human Services St. Ignatius Fitness Center Program jumped into action and filled the no-school void with a day of activities that included a road trip, games and a barbecue.

The activity day drew 34 elementary school students as well as four THHS Fitness Center staffers, two chaperones and four Mission High School student helpers.

The group spent a couple of hours in the morning at the National Bison Range where they toured the visitors’ center, and portions of the NBR that are open to public vehicle traffic.

Fitness center staffers Carlin Matt and Lance Hawkins have a bit of fun with some of the Mission High School gals that assisted them with the activity day. (B.L. Azure photo) Fitness center staffers Carlin Matt and Lance Hawkins have a bit of fun with some of the Mission High School gals that assisted them with the activity day. (B.L. Azure photo)

While in the NBR the youngsters learned about the NBR history at the visitors’ center, and viewed and identified the animals they encountered on their road trip. Bison, of course, but also deer and elk plus various bird species that are either passing through on their northerly migrations or have come as far north as they are going to, and the birds that tough out the Montana winter like magpies and ravens.

“We weren’t able to go for a short hike like we planned because of the wind and rain,” said Margene Asay, THHS Fitness Centers Program manager. “But it still turned out to be a pretty good trip.”

Following the morning road trip the tour group motored back to the fitness center for a spirited game of dodge ball while waiting for fitness center temporary barbecue chef Lance Hawkins to cook the burgers and hot dogs.

“They are the good ones from Costco,” Hawkins said of the burgers and dogs. The good ones were augmented with salads, fruits, veggies and bottled water.

“This is really fun. I like this,” said one young lady about the activities day. “I saw some deer and other animals.”

Kellen McClure, the younger half the two McClure brothers at the fitness center activity day, showed his athletic abilities in the game of dodge ball. (B.L. Azure photo) Kellen McClure, the younger half the two McClure brothers at the fitness center activity day, showed his athletic abilities in the game of dodge ball. (B.L. Azure photo)

It was apparent that the fun was universal among the youngsters by the smiles on their faces and the tone of their laughter.

Asay said the THHS Diabetes Prevention and Education Program funded the activity day as part of its program outreach and education goals. The program also funds a large portion of the fitness centers operations.

“The Diabetes Program works with us to help spread the word about diabetes,” Asay said. “They reach out to a lot of people to get the message out about diabetes prevention and the fitness centers are a part of getting the message out.”

The various THHS fitness centers conduct activity days during the holiday season break as well as at least one activity day a month at each of the fitness centers. They also include the Dixon School with a monthly activity day, usually on the first Wednesday of the month.

“We try to reach as many young people as possible with the diabetes prevention message that includes a healthy lifestyle and healthy diet,” Asay said. “During the school year it is pretty easy to get the word out about a healthy lifestyle.”

The Department of Human Resource Development provided two vans with drivers for the NBR trip.

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