Brothers honored after tragedy

Brothers Kyle and Kevin Dammen were the organizing force behind the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Ski Race. The race will be renamed in Kevin's honor after he died in a kayaking accident in June. -- Herald file photo

Some good is coming out of a local tragedy.

Austin’s Park and Recreation board will rename the annual ski race at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center after Kevin and Kyle Dammen, the two young men who started it. The board’s actions come almost two months after Kevin died during a kayaking accident on Lake Superior June 7.

“It’s very heartwarming and we feel that we’re honoring his memory,” said Julie Champlin, Nature Center assistant.

Nature Center employees, Friends of the Nature Center and board members immediately wanted to do something to honor Dammen, but it took a while to figure out exactly what that would be. The Dammen brothers started the ski race more than two years ago and planned to pass off the race this year before tragedy struck, but organizers figured the race would be a perfect way to honor Kevin and Kyle.

“Everything they could do outside, they did,” said Bob Wilson, Park and Recreation board member.

Proceeds from the race will still go towards the Nature Center, but it will now fund the Kevin Dammen internship, a summer position for those interested in working at the Nature Center. The position will have a paid stipend from the proceeds, and the race will become an annual event.

“We want to make sure that we continue to honor his memory,” Champlin said.

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