HERS Department hosts military challenge

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Second annual Derek Bute Military Fitness Challenge honors deceased student

First-year student Katie Vogel army crawls during an obstacle course at the Derek Bute Military Fitness Challenge at Maxwell Field on Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Taylor Nyman)

First-year student Katie Vogel army crawls during an obstacle course at the Derek Bute Military Fitness Challenge at Maxwell Field on Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Taylor Nyman)

Elizabeth Pulanco / Winonan

Last spring, students and faculty from Winona State University’s Health Exercise and Rehabilitative Sciences (HERS) department created a fundraiser to honor the memory of Derek Bute, an exercise science student who died January of 2016.

On Sunday, April 9, the HERS community worked together once again to celebrate the second annual Derek Bute Military Fitness Challenge.

Before studying at Winona State, Bute was a combat medic in the National Guard and as a way to honor his service, Marines from Rochester, Minn. worked with the HERS department to participate in the fundraiser.

Shellie Nelson, HERS professor and Bute’s aunt, has been involved with the organization of both fundraisers and said the first fundraiser went well.

“We had tons of people there helping and it was a beautiful day,” Nelson said. “The people that participated had a lot of fun. It was great interaction between the students and the faculty and I think it was a great stress reliever.”

The money raised during this fundraiser will go to an academic scholarship in Bute’s name. On Sunday, a $1,000 scholarship was awarded and through funds from the fundraisers and different donations, Nelson said she believes the scholarship will continue to be awarded for many years.

“We’ve got enough money in that account with what we made last year and through the donations that we will be able to give the scholarship away for a good number of years,” Nelson said. “I am very happy about that and I think it is a great way to celebrate Derek and keep his memory alive.”

On Sunday, many of the popular events from last year’s fundraiser returned, including the military fitness challenge with the Marines and the “Pie in the Face” event. Last year, a more intricate obstacle course was set up for the fundraiser. According to Nelson, this event was not as popular as the military challenge, so it did not return.

“We decided not to do the other obstacle course with things that you crawled up on and crawled under and over because it was very time consuming and labor intensive to set up,” Nelson said.

Some of the other events set up on Sunday included the life-sized tic tac toe, the pull up challenge and the ammo can lift.

One new addition to the fundraiser is the involvement of Bute’s National Guard medic unit. The unit is currently stationed in Egypt and one of the medics, Taylor Wiech, has been working with Nelson to purchase T-shirts for the event.

According to Wiech, the 5K the unit participated in was very informal and was a part of their morning routine.

“Many of the individuals stationed here have worked with Derek. He was the senior medic of one of the companies,” Wiech said. “Derek was one-of-a-kind. He was a man that always had a smile on his face and made everyone laugh.”

According to Wiech, the 5K the unit participated in was very informal and was a part of their morning routine.

“We decided that we wanted to do something to be a part of the event back home,” Wiech said. “My motivation for organizing an event was ensuring the soldiers that wanted to be a part of the event back home didn’t feel left out and got a chance to do something in honor of him.”

Along with the exercising events, the fundraiser is also offering $20 T-shirts that can still be purchased by those who are interested in donating to the scholarship foundation, Nelson said.

For the family and friends that participate in the fundraiser, Nelson said it is still difficult to be reminded of their loss, but celebrating Bute’s love for the military and for fitness is helping with their healing process.

“Derek’s friends and family want to bring people together in his memory and honor him by honoring the things he thought were important, like physical fitness, military and education,” Nelson said. “It is always hard for us, but we are trying to turn something tragic into something positive and trying to get people to keep thinking about the contributions he made.”

By Elizabeth Pulanco

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