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Gogebic Range Health Foundation Celebrates Community Health

Katie Thoresen/WXPR

The end of June marked five years of giving for the Gogebic Range Health Foundation.

The Gogebic Range Health Foundation was originally formed in 1998 under the community hospital, Grand View Health.

The group supported the hospital until Aspirus took it over in 2015. That’s when the board of directors decided it was time for a change, according to Executive Director Andrea Newby.

“[The board] wanted to have a greater impact so they decided to become a public charity so we could do a little bit more with what we had, said Newby.

In the last five years, the foundation has given out more than $750,000 in grants and community collaborations to organizations in Iron County, Wisconsin and Gogebic County, Michigan.

Their goal is to improve the health of people in those communities.

Newby said one of the best ways for them to do that is by supporting groups and projects that get people outdoors.

“People that spend or have access to the outdoors in safe spaces have greater physical health and improved mental health, so we see that as our greatest impact if we invest in trails at this time,” she said.

The foundation has been a supporter of things like the Iron Belle Trail development and MECCA Trails.

Every June the organization usually holds a ‘Christmas in June’ celebration to raise funds for grants, but with COVID, the foundation has had to cancel the last two years.

Now, Newby said they decided to rebrand it as an annual celebration of community health.

“We could feel good about coming out of COVID and celebrating the organizations and businesses that make our community healthy over the last two years, year and a half,” said Newby.

To help kick of this year’s celebration, the Gogebic Range Health Foundation named four Community Health Champions.

“The Community Health Champions awards were a new thing we decided to do in order to start to recognize businesses, organizations, and individuals that are going above and beyond kind of their normal operations to make the community health in some way,” said Newby.

Stormy Kromer, Iron County and Western U.P. Health Departments, the NICER organization, and Randy Ahnen are this year’s health champions.

Stormy Kromer switched gears and made masks and other Personal Protective Equipment during the pandemic.

The health departments provided information, testing, and vaccinations for COVID.

NICER coordinated community wide efforts to promote physical activities.

Randy Ahnen took it upon himself to groom the Iron Belle Trail so people could still enjoy it in the winter.

Newby said this year, the health champions were selected by people within the foundation.

In the future, they plan to look to the community for nominations.

The foundation also has several collaboration events coming up like the Copper Peak Trails Fest on September 11th and the Bridges and Bluffs half-marathon on September 25th.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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