A fundraising challenge at Minnesota State University Moorhead has attracted its first major gift with a $1 million pledge from Scheels. The challenge, Laps for the Long Run, was announced Aug. 20 as an event in honor of the inauguration of MSUM Pres. Anne Blackhurst.  Blackhurst will run 12.5 miles, or 50 laps, around the Ron Masanz track at Nemzek Fieldhouse and has personally pledged $1,000 per lap, or $50,000, to start the challenge.

Yesterday, Steve Scheel, CEO of Scheels, accepted the challenge by pledging $20,000 per lap for every lap up to 50 that Blackhurst runs during the Homecoming Week event.

“SCHEELS has been a good partner with NDSU and Concordia over the years and we look forward to partnering with MSUM and President Blackhurst, to help MSUM become a stronger player in our community of Fargo-Moorhead,” said Steve Scheel.

Blackhurst, an avid long distance runner in training for her ninth marathon, began her presidency July 1 and Laps for the Long Run will recognize the beginning of her term by raising money for donor-selected university projects.

“It was just one week ago that we issued a public challenge for Laps for the Long Run and now we have this tremendous support from one of the region’s most respected businesses. I am honored,” Blackhurst said. “Building partnerships with regional businesses is one of my most important priorities. The businesses in this area look to MSUM for well-prepared graduates and, in turn, this pledge from Scheels shows how the private sector continues to support the university and its students.”

Pledges to Laps for the Long Run can be designated by donors for specific purposes. Blackhurst designated her pledge to support new scholarships for high achieving high school students, the President’s Merit Endowed Scholarships. Scheels has designated their gift to support improvements at Nemzek Field.

“SCHEELS and athletics seem to go hand in hand, and we are pleased to be able to help build Dragon athletics by providing an all-weather turf field for the MSUM football field,” Scheel said.

“We absolutely believe that MSUM and Dragon Athletics are an important part of our regional community,” said Doug Peters, MSUM’s Athletic Director. “This investment and partnership with Scheels let’s us know they stand beside us as we continue to serve our region.”

Laps for the Long Run will start at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 24. Pledges can be made at www.mnstate.edu/laps.

View the video coverage of yesterday’s news conference here.

SCHEELS will have stores in 11 states including North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Nevada, Illinois, Utah; with new stores in Overland Park, Kansas and Rochester, Minnesota to open in 2015. The store, which opened in 2008 in the Reno/Sparks, Nevada market, is the World’s Largest All Sports Store to date.