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LEEP gym floor project takes off

By Staff | Apr 4, 2014

While more volunteers are expected today, those working on tearing out the Ringsted School gym floor on Friday were, front from left, Justin Hunecke, Cate DeBates, Travis Shafer, Mandy Hunecke, Anissa Heckel; back row: Tim Johnson, Jay Gunderson, Tyler Stedman, Ryan Trench, Ryan Snustad and Art Hiller. Photo by David Swartz

RINGSTED – The Ringsted School gym floor will be there for a whole new generation of athletes as it finds a new home in Mankato, Minn.

Armstrong-Ringsted alum Mandy (Gunderson) Hunecke, now the executive director for the Mankato nonprofit Leisure Education for Exceptional People, is helping finding a new purpose for the hardwood gymnasium floor.

“LEEP is thrilled to announce that we have been able to commit to this project. We have worked very hard to make it happen and are proud to say our hard work has paid off,” said Hunecke. “It has been something I have dreamt about since I knew the school was closing. I grew up playing sports on that floor and it I am excited to be able to repurpose it into something our athletes can use for years to come.”

Hunecke said people had heard her talking about the idea and it turned into a reality.

LEEP serves over 900 people with disabilities in Mankato. The Special Olympics Team boasts 365 athletes.

An interesting find In tearing out the gym floor at Ringsted, volunteers came across an interesting find—the Jan. 19, 1954 edition of the Estherville News. The center spread of the issue featured the teams in an Emmet County Basketball Tournament to be held in Ringsted, Jan. 19, 21 and 23, 1954, featuring girls and boys teams from Ringsted, Armstrong, Gruver, Dolliver and the Estherville boys team. Jay Gunderson, who said volunteers made the find when they took out the bleachers, said local resident Donna Anderson had walked in earlier and commented she was one of the first to graduate from that school in 1954. The cornerstone was laid in 1952. Anderson also was one of the members of the Ringsted girls team listed in the newspaper. Other notable articles in the paper included a brief on Congress confirming Alaska and Hawaii as states and the listing of shows for the Ringsted Theater. Corn was listed at $1.32 a bushel while beans were at $2.86.

“It’s the biggest team in Minnesota,” she said. “We have 14 different sports that we provide coaching for.”

LEEP has been operating out of an old church for the past 35-plus years and has outgrown its space, Hunecke said.

The donation is a significant one for LEEP, which for the past 35 years has served people with developmental disabilities in the Mankato community through sports and daily recreation based activities including vacation trips throughout the U.S.

Hunecke said volunteers from both Ringsted and Mankato are helping remove the gym floor. They began on Friday morning and expect to complete tearing out the flooring by Saturday.

The wood will have to be sanded before it can be used. However, Hunecke said LEEP’s main campaign fundraiser for a new home won’t begin until 2015.

“The goal is to have it complete within five years,” she said.

About Leisure Education for Exceptional People

Leisure Education for Exceptional People, Inc. (LEEP) is a non-profit, United Way-supported organization that provides recreational and sporting opportunities for people with developmental disabilities so that they might achieve optimal levels of socialization and independence in the community.