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  • Writer's pictureBill

A year of defining the new "normal" in outdoor events - the 2021 recap.

After all that we endured in 2020 and as the world tried to understand and move through a pandemic, we all wondered what would "normal" look like and when would we get to that new "normal". As 2021 started, we all cautiously started group gatherings and events started making a come back. Storm the Park in April did not look like a normal event with its donation-only entry fee event with small waves of masked people spread out throughout the day. There was no after race party but we did get back to feeling like we were part of a group again. As the year continued, we came to Storm the Farm in July which was much more like the new normal for events with group starts and a little extra precautionary measures at the aid stations and the "trailgating after-party" atmosphere we've come to enjoy. In October we introduced the Winona area to our first-ever time-based event, Storm the Day, which took place from sunrise to sunset with the only goals being to keep moving and to have fun. Finally, we capped the year off with our trail running, mountain biking, and off-road duathlon events at Storm the Bluffs in December. We are now back as an outdoor community and striving to do better to have fun and safe events. Click the links for each race mentioned to view the photo albums from each event or use this photo album link to see just how much fun we all had this year!

Mandy and I want to thank all of you for the incredible support you have given The Storm Trial Race Series throughout this past year. Without your participation, volunteering, purchases of Storm Gear, donations, and pure generosity our events would not be the fun, and exciting "trailgating parties" that they have become known as. We have seen so many of you accomplish more than you thought possible at our events, which isn't just about crossing the finish line. Sometimes it is surviving that big climb up a bluff, that looks impossible, and then doing it 3 more times; it is enduring the summer heat for endless hours; it is seeing that you can keep moving for 11 hours on a fall day, or helping bring a smile to a participant as a volunteer that is encouraging everyone to keep moving.

In addition to all the awesome accomplishments we see you achieve on the trails, there is something even more amazing that happens. Because of our events, we are able to make a difference in the lives of area youth and their families through our beneficiaries, Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center and Family and Children's Center. These non-profit organizations offer services and programs with a focus on youth mental health which is an extremely important cause to us. Together we have made a significant impact on these organizations and look forward to continuing to contribute to these organizations together.

While a direct donation is one of the best ways to help us, you help in so many ways that you may not realize. Here are a few facts about The Storm Trail Race Series events and how you make a difference to our events and to our beneficiaries.

  1. When you make a race donation, 100% goes to that race’s beneficiary!

  2. ⅔ of your registration fee is used to cover race expenses, like food and beverages, medals, shirts, permits, venue fees, etc. Of the remaining ⅓ of your fees, 95% becomes a donation and the portion that remains is used for us to invest in general event supplies like flags, medical supplies, etc.

  3. When you buy our merchandise like buffs, hats, pint glasses, etc , you cover the item cost and the remainder becomes a donation.

  4. We have 4 main events in our series, Storm the Park - April 23rd (register today), Storm the Farm - July 23rd, Storm the Day - Oct 15th, Storm the Bluffs - Dec 3rd and each is dedicated to one of our beneficiaries.

In 2021, your generosity of direct donations, purchases, and event participation allowed us to provide $10,000 in combined donations and since we began in 2019 we have donated $16,000 to our beneficiaries. We are often asked what happens to those donations and if they make a difference in those organizations' programs. Here are some examples of how we are helping:

Erik Sievers, Executive Director at Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center:

"Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center provides a broad array of services of support for children, adolescents, families, and adults in the region. For children, youth, and families specifically, we offer services in clinics such as substance abuse counseling, mental health therapy, and medication management. In addition, we provide school-linked behavioral health services in almost every school district in the area and other services and supports in the community. Through the school-linked behavioral health program, we have mental health providers working closely with school personnel, children, youth, and families to help those whose mental health needs may create challenges in their life. Our goal is to help others live the lives they want to live. It is through the generosity of The Storm Trail Race Series, that we are able to do this.

We have used funds through your support to build up our providers' “toolbox” of items to improve our interventions with those we are here to serve. This year, we will be utilizing the funds through your generosity to help increase group services and support the non-reimbursable costs that go with providing groups (travel, supplies, snacks)."


Jamie Korn, Development Director at Family and Children’s Center:

"Family & Children's Center is incredibly grateful to The Storm Trail Race Series and to Mandy and Bill Hansel's focus on youth mental health awareness and philanthropy in this area. They encourage all people with diverse abilities to get out and bike, run, walk and volunteer to support the most vulnerable youth in our community. Family & Children’s Center has been the fortunate recipient for the past 3 years from this event. The money we receive goes a long way in supporting our Day Treatment Program.

We operate a Day Treatment program in Winona, MN that serves youth ages 3 to 17 dealing with severe emotional and behavioral difficulties, experiencing problems at home, school, and/or in the community, having difficulty relating to and interacting with others, and having a primary mental health diagnosis or severe emotional/behavioral disorder.

Day Treatment utilizes a variety of approaches to create a safe and structured environment designed to improve the overall well-being of the youth. The program provides a structured setting and offers the following service components:

  • Diagnostic Assessment (DC 0-5, standard, extended)

  • Individualized Treatment and Crisis Planning

  • Community Support/Case Management

  • Psychotherapy (individual, group, family)

  • Skills training (individual, group, family, recreational, independent living, organizational, etc.)

Goals of the program include:

  • Improve daily functioning and overall well-being of the child/adolescent

  • Develop and strengthen positive coping skills

  • Learn ways to manage and effectively express emotions

  • Increase youth self-esteem

  • Learn alternatives to high-risk behaviors

  • Build social skills to improve relationships with adults and peers

We can’t do this important work without you so it is with immense gratitude we thank The Storm Trail Race Series for educating our community and supporting youth mental health in Winona!"


We hope that you all are as moved as we are to see the difference that our donations make to these organizations and continue to support us as we look to provide even more funding to these organizations' programs.

Let’s not forget the mental and physical health our events provide to everyone involved. As mentioned earlier, whether you run, hike, walk, or volunteer, our events offer an opportunity to get outdoors and be with friends (both old and those you haven’t met yet). If you participate, you will accomplish more than you thought you were capable of on our challenging courses. As a volunteer, you will feel the joy of helping others on their journey to reach the finish line. Last but not least, as a donor, you are making a direct impact to these organizations.

Ways you can help as we wrap up 2021 and head into the new year:

Nominate The Storm Trail Race Series in the Leighton Broadcastings Gratitude on Repeat contest before December 31st. The winner of this contest will free radio advertising schedule that will help us get the word out about our events and the great things we are all doing for youth mental health in our area.

Do some shopping at Bluff Country Co-op. Yes, by simply shopping at the Co-op and using your own bag you can help us receive donations through their Beans for Bags donation program. Shop at the Co-Op during January, February, and March and use your own bags, you will receive a bean. Please place that bean in the mason jar designated for The Storm Trail Race Series! We will receive $.05 for each bean in our jar at the end of the quarter!

Go to our website and subscribe to our newsletters and blogs so you stay up to date on events and stories and important updates. Following us on Facebook and Instagram are great ways to stay in touch as well.

Register for an event. Storm the Park is open and the other events will be opening soon. We are always looking for volunteers! Sign up to volunteer at Storm the Park here. You can always donate at any time by visiting our website and clicking Donate Today under Fundraising. We will also be adding new gear to our website in 2022 so watch for information and posts with those exciting announcements.

Thank you for an incredible 2021 and we look forward to seeing you and your families at our events in 2022. Registrations are opening so watch our Facebook page, website, and signup for our newsletters for updates.


Bill and Mandy Hansel

The Storm Trail Race Series

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