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Mark Hanson, a registered nurse, is one of many retired volunteers who help the Middleton-based Benevolent Specialists Project Free Clinic provide COVID-19 vaccinations and a wide range of specialty medical care.

Minnesota Twins players wear masks during batting practice amid the COVID-19 pandemic before Friday's game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif.

STORIES FOR GOOD| The Storm Trail Race Series
Stories for Good: Running for love — and for the cause of mental health

What happens when you combine a love for trail running together with a passion for supporting youth mental health programs? You form your own non-profit trail race company, The Storm Trail Race Series!

My name is Many Hansel and my husband, Bill, and I did just that back in the spring of 2019. We are both ultrarunners, which means we enjoy very long trail races at distances many people don’t even like to drive! We also both have a passion for getting people out on the trails and exploring the beautiful Driftless area.

Trail running began for me as a combination of my love for hiking and my love for running. Why not do them at the same time? Well, because I was slow, I was intimidated, scared to fail, to be last, to have to walk part of the route — the reasons for not starting were endless.

However, a fabulous group of trail runners took me under their wing and started me on my trail running journey. Here I am years later, having completed two 50-mile races and a handful of other ultra events.

I wanted to give back that feeling of belonging to others who wanted to try their hand (or should I say legs?) at trail running. I wanted to make them feel comfortable to join in and feel like they could challenge themselves without the fear of failing.

To do so, we established immediately that all of the events that we would hold would never have cutoffs. Many races have limits to the time that participants can be out on the route. We will not pull anyone out of our events because time is running out. We will be there to celebrate that final finisher just as we do the first-place finisher.

Our first event in 2019 was Storm the Farm. What an amazing experience this was for all involved! We had around 150 participants doing a variety of distances from 5K up to 43K. With no cutoff, we hoped that participants that had always wanted to give an ultramarathon distance a shot would do so with the 43K. We also wanted to encourage people of all paces to join in with no worry of being pulled off the course mid-race.

One couple, Julie and Jay Dureske, participated in the event with the goal to simply finish the 5K event. And they did just that. Then they kept going and going out on the trails for the remainder of 2019, collecting mile after mile until they had reached their goal of 100 miles of hiking! It was awesome to watch them reach that goal and establish a goal of 200 miles for 2020! We love seeing people fall in love with being on the trails and want to bring that to as many people as we can!

While accomplishing that, we also want to use our events as a catalyst to raise funds for area youth mental health programs. We have relationships with several local organizations including Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center, Family & Children’s Center, and Solomon’s Song. We collect donations from our participants and also donate a large portion of the race profits to these organizations to help support their youth mental health programs.

Storm the Farm 2021 is coming up in July at Briggs Outdoors. Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center will be the chosen recipient of this event’s donations.

Watch our website <&underline></&underline> for more information or to donate. Thanks for your support, Winona!

In Minneapolis, armed patrol group tries to keep the peace

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — As protests intensified in the Minneapolis suburb where a police officer fatally shot Daunte Wright, a group of Black men joined the crowd intent on keeping the peace and preventing protests from escalating into violence.

Hundreds of people have gathered outside the heavily guarded Brooklyn Center police station every night since Sunday, when former Officer Kim Potter, who is white, shot the 20-year-old Black motorist during a traffic stop. Despite the mayor’s calls for law enforcement and protesters to scale back their tactics, the nights have often ended in objects hurled, tear gas and arrests.

The Black men at the edge of the crowd wear yellow patches on protective vests that identify them as members of the Minnesota Freedom Fighters, a group formed to provide security in Minneapolis’ north side neighborhoods during unrest following the death of George Floyd last year. They are not shy about casting a forceful image — the group’s Facebook page features members posing with assault-style weapons and describes itself as an “elite security unit” — but on Friday the Freedom Fighters didn’t appear to be armed and said they intended only to encourage peaceful protesting.

As several people began to rattle a fence protecting the Brooklyn Center police department, the Freedom Fighters communicated to each other over walkie-talkies. They declined to say how many are in their group.

On recent nights, the Freedom Fighters have moved through the crowd in formation, wearing body armor and dark clothing, weaving past umbrella-wielding demonstrators to create separation along a double-layer perimeter security fence. Their passive tactics are intended to deescalate the tension, preventing agitators from pressing forward and provoking the law enforcement officers standing at attention with pepper-ball and less-lethal sponge grenade launchers at the ready.

“We can keep it peaceful,” said Tyrone Hartwell, a 36-year-old former U.S. Marine who belongs to the group. “There’s always somebody in the group that wants to incite something,” adding that throwing objects at the police takes the focus away from their calls for justice and saps energy from the movement.

Minneapolis is on edge — simultaneously watching the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Floyd’s death and reeling from the shooting of Wright. In the midst of that, Hartwell said the Freedom Fighters are trying to push the movement for racial justice forward, while keeping at bay the violence and destruction that often acutely affects minority communities.

“This is a very difficult time in the history of this country,” said U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat from California who joined the protest on Saturday. “We have to let people know that we are not going to be satisfied unless we get justice in these cases.”

The 82-year-old congresswoman decried the 11 p.m. curfew set by authorities as a way to tamp down demonstrations and encouraged the crowd of roughly 150 people to “stay in the street.”

But local residents have also suffered from the nightly clashes between law enforcement and demonstrators, Hartwell said. He pointed to the apartments across the street from the Brooklyn Center police department, where residents have complained of tear gas streaming into their homes.

The Freedom Fighters formed after the NAACP put out a call for armed men to organize and protect their neighborhoods from looting and arson following Floyd’s death. Hartwell said groups of white people had come into predominantly Black communities and harassed children.

They have also formed relationships with the city government and police department. City spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said there are several “formal and informal relationships” with members of the Freedom Fighters, but it does not fund or contract with the organization because it is an armed group.

However, some demonstrators said those ties mean the Freedom Fighters act at the behest of the police and are not aggressive enough in calling them to account.

The Freedom Fighters have clashed this week with umbrella-carrying demonstrators intent on provoking law enforcement officers. On Saturday, members of the group removed a group of demonstrators who had tried to cut the chains connecting the fencing outside the police department.

For much of the night, the street outside the police department was more subdued than in previous nights — protesters chanted and spat insults towards police, but at times also danced to music.

Law enforcement also refrained from firing the flash-bang canisters and sponge grenades they had employed on previous nights. And as curfew passed, law enforcement officers did not advance on the crowd; instead, it mostly dissipated on its own.

Another group of protesters tried a different tack by traveling to Stillwater, Minnesota, to protest at the home of Washington County Attorney Pete Orput to push him to bring more severe charges against Potter. A crowd of roughly 100 people marched through the streets of his neighborhood.

One of the organizers of the protest, lawyer and activist Nekima Levy Armstrong, said Orput came out of his home at one point to explain why his office charged Potter with second-degree manslaughter, instead of more severe murder charges.

She credited him with engaging with the protesters, something she said never happened with Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman after Floyd died. The Minnesota Attorney General eventually took over prosecution, and Freeman sold his home after frequent protests.

But Levy Armstrong indicated they would not let up the pressure on Orput, saying, “We are committed to continuing to have conversations with him until we see some murder charges.”

ROLL CALL | A week in Congress
Roll Call: Follow the votes in our weekly report

WASHINGTON — Here’s a look at how area members of Congress voted over the previous week.

House votes

Medicare and stimulus spending: The House has agreed to the Senate amendment to the Medicare Sequester Act (H.R. 1868), sponsored by Rep. John A. Yarmuth, D-Ky., to exempt Medicare from pay-as-you-go budget limits in the most recent COVID-19 stimulus spending law, and provide higher Medicaid payments to California’s public hospitals. The vote, on April 13, was 384 yeas to 38 nays. Yeas:

  • Hagedorn R-MN (1st), Emmer R-MN (6th)

Drugs in sports: The House has passed the United States Anti-Doping Agency Reauthorization Act (H.R. 172), sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., to authorize funding for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency through fiscal 2030, and make changes to the agency to campaign against performance-enhancing drugs in amateur athletics. The vote, on April 14, was 381 yeas to 37 nays. Yeas:

  • Hagedorn R-MN (1st), Emmer R-MN (6th)

Food allergies: The House has passed the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act (S. 578), sponsored by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., to add sesame to the list of major food allergens regulated by the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) and require HHS to report to Congress on its food allergy activities. The vote, on April 14, was 415 yeas to 11 nays. Yeas:

  • Hagedorn R-MN (1st), Emmer R-MN (6th)

Biosimilar drugs: The House has passed the Advancing Education on Biosimilars Act (S. 164), sponsored by Sen. Margaret Wood Hassan, D-N.H., to direct the Food and Drug Administration to increase efforts to educate health care providers and the public on biosimilars and biological products. Biosimilars are similar to or interchangeable with other health treatment biological products that are made by a living organism. The vote, on April 14, was 412 yeas to 8 nays. Yeas:

  • Hagedorn R-MN (1st), Emmer R-MN (6th)

Financial scams: The House has passed the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act (H.R. 1215), sponsored by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del. The bill would create a Senior Scams Prevention Advisory Group, charged with developing educational materials for companies on how to prevent scams that target the elderly, and create an advisory office at the Federal Trade Commission with similar goals. The vote, on April 15, was 396 yeas to 13 nays. Yeas:

  • Hagedorn R-MN (1st), Emmer R-MN (6th)

Carbon monoxide: The House has passed the Nicholas and Zachary Burt Memorial Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act (H.R. 1460), sponsored by Rep. Ann M. Kuster, D-N.H., to direct the Consumer Product Safety Commission to provide grants for state and tribal governments to install carbon monoxide detectors in schools and residences of low-income families and the elderly. The vote, on April 15, was 362 yeas to 49 nays. Yeas:

  • Hagedorn R-MN (1st), Emmer R-MN (6th)

Wage discrimination: The House has passed the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7), sponsored by Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-Conn., to adopt a variety of measures aimed at preventing wage discrimination on the basis of sex or sexual status. DeLauro said the bill “simply brings the Equal Pay Act into line with the remedies already available for those who are subject to other forms of employment discrimination.” The vote, on April 15, was 217 yeas to 210 nays. Nays:

  • Hagedorn R-MN (1st), Emmer R-MN (6th)

Stem cell therapies: The House has passed the TRANSPLANT Act (H.R. 941), sponsored by Rep. Doris O. Matsui, D-Calif., to reauthorize the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act through fiscal 2026. The vote, on April 15, was 415 yeas to 2 nays. Yeas:

  • Hagedorn R-MN (1st), Emmer R-MN (6th)

Controlled substances: The House has passed the Ensuring Compliance Against Drug Diversion Act (H.R. 1899), sponsored by Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., to establish legal authority for government regulations for the distribution of controlled substances, including opioids. Griffith said the bill aimed to “decrease the risk of controlled substances falling into the hands of those who have not been vetted by appropriate regulatory authorities.” The vote, on April 15, was 412 yeas to 5 nays. Yeas:

  • Hagedorn R-MN (1st), Emmer R-MN (6th)

Small business loans: The House has passed the Microloan Improvement Act (H.R. 1502), sponsored by Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., to change the Small Business Administration’s microloan program, including new restrictions on loan repayment terms. The vote, on April 15, was 397 yeas to 16 nays. Yeas:

  • Hagedorn R-MN (1st), Emmer R-MN (6th)

Senate votes

Transportation official: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Polly Trottenberg to serve as deputy secretary of transportation. Trottenberg had been New York City’s transportation commissioner since 2014; she was a Transportation Department official during the Obama administration. The vote, on April 13, was 82 yeas to 15 nays. Yeas:

  • Klobuchar D-MN, Smith D-MN

State department: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Wendy Sherman to serve as deputy secretary of state. Sherman was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2011 to 2015, and was a State Department official in the Clinton administration. The vote, on April 13, was 56 yeas to 42 nays. Yeas:

  • Klobuchar D-MN, Smith D-MN

Regulating financial markets: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Gary Gensler to serve as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Gensler chaired the Commodity Futures Trading Commission during the Obama administration, and previously was a Treasury Department official. A supporter, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Gensler “understands we need to ensure confidence and stability in our markets as the foundation to grow American businesses and support the workers who make their companies successful.” The vote, on April 14, was 53 yeas to 45 nays. Yeas:

  • Klobuchar D-MN, Smith D-MN

Environmental regulations: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Brenda Mallory to serve as chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. Mallory was the Council’s general counsel for the last three years of the Obama administration. The vote, on April 14, was 53 yeas to 45 nays. Yeas:

  • Klobuchar D-MN, Smith D-MN
IN PHOTOS: President-elect Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris