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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Friday March 1st 2024

Running Wolf Fitness Center and Connie Norman

By Lydia Caros

Connie Norman was the face of Running Wolf Fitness Center (RW) for 4 years. She was a tireless worker who believed in the program and in promoting health in the local Native American community. She was a teacher/trainer for the Living In Balance classes at NACC and offered the classes to other Native organizations for years, as well as training community members to teach the class. Managing the Running Wolf program was a natural extension of those efforts. When NACC and IHB started to co-manage the Running Wolf program, it was clear that funding was going to be the most difficult issue. The clinics tried very hard to provide funding for the program; but neither clinic was able to fund the entire program out of their operational funds. Both clinics spent a significant amount of staff time and funding, but their financial support was meant to be temporary. It was made clear at the onset that outside funding was going to be necessary.

Connie worked valiantly to keep RW going. Funding continued to be a challenge, and we think that foundations may have been wary of funding a project that had TWO non-profits managing it, since RW was not an independent entity. Despite the constant stress of funding worries, Connie reached out to the community and encouraged people to exercise. Many in the community have benefitted, and there have been several articles in the past attesting to wonderful life-changing results from individuals starting a regular exercise program at Running Wolf. Connie was there to cheer them on and advise them. She also reached out to all the local Native organizations encouraging participation. Her networking abilities were stunning.

When it was clear that stable and adequate funding was not going to come in (after two years of trying), the clinics had to close the program- the clinics had actually extended the ending time in the hopes that some significant funding could come from the tribes. Although there was a lot of effort, and some help with funding, particularly from Mille Lacs, there wasn”'t enough to save the program. The decision to close RW was painful and very difficult for all involved. The Phillips Center Park Board offered to keep the space open in the interim while MAIC works on trying to find funding to restart the program there. NACC and IHB gave the Park Board permission to use the equipment there until MAIC is able to open RW again. The clinics are no longer involved in any of the management at the Phillips Center Park Board space. We appreciate that the space is available for the community to use, but we do continue to hope that RW can be reborn at MAIC someday soon.

It”'s a challenging time for those of us who work in health care, with many changes and costly technological adjustments required by the state and federal funders. In the midst of that, we don”'t want to lose sight of the contributions of individuals like Connie Norman, who worked for many years in the Native American community to promote wellness. We appreciate all the energy and focus she provided and the opportunities she gave to so many to improve their health. We wish her the very best.


From all the staff at

Native American Community Clinic and Indian Health Board

Dr. Lydia Caros is a pediatrian and CEO of Native American Community Clinic

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