Kathy Tusa may not look fast, but don't be fooled.
Tusa, of Brainerd, has beaten most of her competitors in box hockey - a game she learned to play at age 12 at a Bible camp on Lake Alexander - in the gymnasium at the Washington Educational Services Building in Brainerd.
On Feb. 5, she beat four people, one after another, at the game.
Tusa and about 10 others took advantage of a free program - Fun and Fitness, from 9-11 a.m. in the gym at Washington.
The program, which started in January, runs every weekday through May as a collaboration project between Brainerd Community Education, Brainerd Parks and Recreation and the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center.
Al Wickstrom of Baxter shot baskets earlier this month during the Fun and Fitness program in the gymnasium at Washington Educational Services Building in Brainerd.
» Purchase reprints of this photo.Brainerd Dispatch/ Nels Norquist
Todd Lyscio, Brainerd Community Education director, said the gym sat empty most days, so he talked with Tony Sailer, Brainerd Parks and Recreation, and DeAnn Barry, senior center director, on a way to get community members involved with the school where they could use the gym.
The Fun and Fitness program was born.
All seniors are welcome and may choose from a variety of fitness games, including Norwegian golf, horseshoes, shuffleboard, ring toss, whiffle ball, basketball and adaptive floor hockey.
Sailer organizes the games, designed for individual or team participation. Sailer said people are coming out and enjoying the games, although, in the beginning, seniors said their muscles were sore.
"Seniors are being more active and socializing more, which is a good thing," Sailer said. "I'm hoping more people will come and take advantage of this opportunity."
Barry said the program is going well, and she hopes it will pick up after the recent cold spell. She said seniors come and do their own thing, while others will shoot a game of basketball.
"There's a mother and daughter who come just to walk for 20 minutes," Barry said. "And others do the stairs.
"The Norwegian golf has been the biggest hit with people. We ordered a second set."
Brainerd Dispatch/ Nels Norquist
Tusa, who has participated in the program since it began, has her box hockey setup at Washington for others to enjoy. Tusa said she can't wait for organizers to work out the details to allow students to participate in the Fun and Fitness program on the days they're not in school because students will enjoy playing box hockey.
"It's fun," she said of the program. "In the wintertime, I don't do anything, so if I didn't come here, I'd be sitting around reading or watching TV. This keeps me going. The program is a good idea to get us seniors out of our house."
Al Wickstrom of Baxter likes to walk and play basketball.
"I was excited when this (program) opened," he said. "I wish more people would come though, then we could get a good game going so it would be more fun. It's hard for a lot of people to get out of the chair at home, especially when it's so cold."
Jim Erickson of East Gull Lake participated for the first time Feb. 5 because he couldn't play tennis at Cragun's Resort. Erickson said he knew many of the people at the Fun and Fitness program because they're members of the senior center, where he was president of the board last year.
Erickson said it's great that the Brainerd School District opened its gym to seniors for free. He said the program is a nice way for seniors to stay active.
Dick MacFarland of Pillager also attended the program for the first time. He played shuffleboard, Norwegian golf and shot basketball with Erickson and Steve Tusa of Brainerd.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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