By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN When Alyssa Prior (daughter of Tom and Tawnia Prior) was working toward her Girl Scout Gold Award, she wanted her service project to involve children.
“I work with kids every day,” said Prior, 16, speaking of weekend babysitting jobs and her after-school employment at Sunshine Station Childcare and Preschool in Rockford.
So, when she got the idea to organize a youth triathlon last year, it was a perfect fit.
Prior met with Sarah Farniok of Delano Community Education, Delano City Administrator Phil Kern, and Delano resident Matt Strobl for several weeks to plan the event, which they named the 2011 Vision Quest Youth Triathlon.
“We started working in June, and the triathlon was in September. It was a lot of work,” Prior said, estimating that she personally devoted about 100 hours to the project.
Local businesses agreed to sponsor the triathlon, and provided trophies, medals, t-shirts, and goodie bags.
“I went out and talked to every single one of them personally,” said Prior, a junior at Delano High School.
The day before the event, some of the youth tested the course, ensuring that everything would run smoothly.
The next morning, Prior and several volunteers showed up at the Tiger Activity Center along with 83 young athletes in second through 12th grade.
“I was expecting maybe like 50,” Prior said. “A lot of people said it was really good for our first year.”
Girls and boys were divided into groups, and spent the morning racing with their peers.
Grades two and three swam 50 yards, biked one mile, and ran a half-mile. Fourth- through sixth-graders swam 75 yards, biked two miles, and ran one mile. Grades seven through 12 did 100 yards of swimming, 2.8 miles of biking, and 1.5 miles of running.
A long challenge course (open to participants in grades four through 12) included a 200-yard swim, a four-mile bike ride, and a two-mile run.
The top three finishers in each category for girls and boys received trophies, and medals were given through seventh place.
Because it was so well received, Prior is helping to organize a 2012 Vision Quest Youth Triathlon, sometime in September. In the future, she’d also like to plan an adult triathlon, but doesn’t have any specifics in place yet.
Prior has also served the community in the past, through her Girl Scout Bronze Award and Silver Award.
Her Bronze Award project included volunteering at Crossroads Animal Shelter.
“I cleaned cages, played with animals, fed animals, made toys, cleaned, and other miscellaneous activities,” Prior noted. “I needed 40 hours, but I enjoyed it so much I put in over 50.”
For her Silver Award, Prior and two other Girl Scouts in her troop (Kiah Vanasse and Lori Jensen) donated more than $450 in infant supplies to a women’s shelter. They raised money to purchase the items by bagging groceries, a babysitting night at a local church, and donations.
“We also went [to the shelter] to clean and organize,” Prior noted. “For this project, we each put in 60 hours or more.”
To earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, girls in high school must fulfill requirements related to leadership, career exploration, and community service, according to the Girl Scouts of Minnesota.
Prior joined Girl Scouts in second grade, and has stayed involved despite a busy schedule.
“I just built really good relationships there,” she said.
Two of her friends, Emily Peterson and Amber Doboszenski, also earned their Girl Scout Gold Awards recently, and all three girls are Delano royalty candidates.
“We’re in everything together,” Prior said.
After graduating from Delano High School next year, Prior plans to go to the University of Minnesota, Duluth for elementary education.