Color run with a purpose

Boosted by her son Dane’s experiences and the volunteerism of her daughter Keira, Karla Hemmann of NYA is planning a 5K color run and kids color run for July 15 in NYA for a sensory playground. (Adam Gruenewald/The Times)

by Adam Gruenewald
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An upcoming color run in NYA will help benefit a sensory playground for kids with special needs.
Entitled Dare 2 B Different, the event on July includes a 5K color run and 1/2 mile kids color run at the NYA Legion Pool Park.
Karla Hemmann of NYA devised the event as a fundraising boost for the development of a sensory playground at Southwest Metro Intermediate District.
Karla’s son Dane, who will be a seventh-grader, is technically a Central student but attends Minnesota River Valley Education Center in Jordan, a part of the Southwest Metro Intermediate District, full-time through a co-op.
“He just finished his fourth year and he loves it there,” said Hemmann. “It’s a little bit more 1-on-1 with the kids and they started out having more therapy and intense stuff with the kids.”
Hemmann first saw the need for a playground at Southwest Metro on her first visit there.
“There’s no outdoor playground,” said Hemmann. “So I was thinking how can we do this? How can this be possible?”
Parents, staff and volunteers have started fundraising efforts for the playground, collecting about $36,000 total so far for the playground that is expected to cost as low as $75,000 and as high as $150,000 with additional funds required for a fence as well.
“I better help somehow to raise some money,” said Hemmann, as she was once of the main drivers for the fundraiser. “Every kid needs to have a playground at school.”
Hemmann, who completed her first year at Central Schools as a paraprofessional, said working with kids with special needs is rewarding.
“I love it, it’s been so much fun just to see them change and grow and learn,” said Hemmann, adding she is able to apply her own experiences with Dane in her job at Central. “If a situation right now isn’t working, I can think outside of the box to make them engaged or get back on track.”
In addition to Dane, Karla and her husband Brandon, a concrete mason originally from Glencoe, have a daughter Keira, who attends Central School District.
As part of the effort, Keira and her Jr. Girl Scout Troop #16580 of Central fourth-graders are involved as they are using it for their Bronze Award.
The idea for the color run came from the 2016 color run held in Waconia in honor of Alexis Kreitsch, who was killed in a car crash in July 2015.
“We were throwing color at the runners and our girls just had a blast with it,” said Hemmann. “It’s so much fun.”
The hope is the playground will be up by the start of the 2017-18 school year, so fundraising remains a priority for Hemmann and others.
Thus far registrations have been slow, but Hemmann, who has not set a goal, expected that they will pick up with race day registration available as well.
“It would be nice if there were 80 to 100 people running in it,” said Hemmann. “Hopefully it works.”
As a parent of Dane, Hemmann knows the vast benefits the playground could provide for students.
“Especially with special needs kids, it’s amazing what just 20 minutes of exercise does for them to focus for the rest of the day,” said Hemmann. “Obviously every kid needs that recharge and to get rid of that energy, but with my son and others they are sensor seeking so they can jump a little bit and be calm.”
The Dare 2 B Different fundraiser will be held on July 15 with a 5K color run and 1/2 mile kids color run at the NYA Legion Pool Park. With registration for the untimed races at 8 a.m., the 5K begins at 9 a.m. followed by a kids color run. The cost is $40 per 5K registrant and $25 for the kids run.
Donations for the outdoor sensory playground at Southwest Metro Intermediate District can be mailed to Karla Hemmann C/O “Color Run Fundraiser,” 327 Oak Street South, NYA, MN, 55368. Register online at
A GoFundMe page has also been set up for the playground as well at
Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.