Jeremy Andrews was enjoying a vacation in January with his wife, Erin.
The couple, co-owners of Penetrator Events, had just finished rafting along the Sturgeon River when they came across a unique feature in a local park: a shed with many sleds sticking out of it, the words ‘Sled Library’ stuck on on the side. .
Now, with the help of some community partners, Andrews has brought the concept to grain town, unveiling the first free sled library, where patrons “borrow a sled, leave a sled,” at Leila Arboretum.
Children took full advantage of the newly installed sled library on February 12 as hundreds of people rushed to the 72-acre park for the annual “Festivus” cardboard sled race.
Steep hills combined with terrific ice cost at least four of the plastic sleds available for kids that afternoon, but Andrews is undeterred.
“As long as people donate, I will continue to buy sleds,” he said. “The idea is really cool and we are delighted with it.”
Andrews has raised more than $600 in donations since he pitched the idea to friends on social media on Feb. 2. A second toboggan library is planned for the Riverside Golf Club, but probably not until next winter given the recent warmer temperatures.
“We’ll see,” Andrews said. “There is always a possibility that there will be more snow and more sledding, but really our sledding window in Michigan is sometimes non-existent and sometimes short.”
Heidi LaGrow, a graphic communications technology teacher at the Calhoun Area Career Center, was one of the first people to offer Andrews a hand with the project after reading her Facebook post.
“I thought it was absolutely awesome and a great community event,” LaGrow said. “I reached out to (Jeremy) and asked if he had any flagging to do or anything that could possibly be given by the career center.”
A few of LaGrow’s students came up with designs, with Andrews ultimately choosing signage developed by Loretha McDonald, a senior at Battle Creek Central High School.
Kyle Burnett, owner of RB Christian Ironworks, also joined in the effort by designing a “corral” where the sleds could be stored. The project has been a great learning experience for some of the Burnett employees new to fabrication, he said, with the team building the structure in time for its February 12 “Festivus” debut.
“It’s for a good cause, it helps kids get out and have fun and it felt like a great opportunity,” Burnett said. “I really enjoy getting involved in these kinds of projects in the community. I use this business as a business owner to be different, help people, and maybe encourage other businesses to help the community even more. community. We can have a lot of influence in the community if we just help out.”
LaGrow also put Andrews in touch with construction students at the Calhoun Area Career Center, who built a second corral for the sleds.
“What I love about this is that even though it seemed like a very easy thing to set up, I posted a message on Facebook, I asked people to start give a few bucks and I’ve asked a few partners to donate and donate time and resources, but it’s really the accumulation of about 15 years of relationship building,” Andrews said.
Andrews hopes to add more free sled libraries in the future, donations and support permitting. At the very least, there will be two fully stocked next season, and while some have raised concerns about sled theft, Andrews’ response remains the same.
“Oh, you mean a kid without a sled has a sled now? Cool, I think we’re ready,” he joked. “I want people to learn to share, of course. But you know what? If a kid needs a sled and they brought one home and now they have a sled, cool. That kid didn’t have a sled and now they have a sled.”
Andrews is accepting donations for the free sled library through Venmo @penetratorevents. For more information, visit penetratorevents.com.
Contact reporter Greyson Steele at [email protected] or 269-501-5661. Follow him on Twitter: G_SteeleBC