This was difficult. A few months ago, we asked Chippewa Valley Family readers to nominate local kids aged 10 years or younger for a special feature. Our goal was not to find “the best” kids in the area, but to discover outstanding examples of what Chippewa Valley youth can accomplish.
We were looking for kids with passion and creativity. Kids with big ideas. Kids who dive in. Kids who care about their families and their communities.
We asked you to submit diverse nominees in terms of age, ability, interests, and culture. And we were overwhelmed by your response.
Selecting the 10 kids you see here was no easy feat. It was a moving experience to read through your applications, and we’re so proud to live amongst so many phenomenal young citizens.
The 10 individuals to featured here aren’t the “winners.” They’re simply a band of kids who demonstrate some of what’s great about growing up in the Chippewa Valley. We believe their stories are inspiring — for kids and grown-ups alike.
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Age: 10 • Town: Eau Claire
His Good Deed: Collecting Toys For Tots at his karate studio
Ryder Hadt is only 10 but he’s already got a string of acting credits to his name at both the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre and Regis Community Theatre.
“I like the challenge of memorizing the lines and speaking in front of people,” says Ryder, who just finished fifth grade at St. Mary’s in Altoona and will attend Regis Middle School in the fall.
Even more impressive is his commitment to doing good work in the community. For example, last Christmas he arranged to get a Toys for Tots donation box placed at his karate studio, Zimmerman’s Freestyle Martial Arts in Eau Claire.
“We had some (boxes) in our school and other areas, and I just thought it would be a good idea to put one there to see how much people would donate,” Ryder says. “And it got pretty full, so I was happy about that. …
They go to a good purpose.” Ryder has also served meals at Hope Gospel Mission, rung the bell for the Salvation Army, helped sort tons of food (literally) at Feed My People Food Bank, and volunteered at the Market Match table at the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market.
“I like helping people because it makes me feel good that I helped out,” he says. “And then if other people are watching it, it helps them help people.” In his free time, Ryder enjoys playing trumpet, swimming, playing soccer, and taking part in 4-H.
He’s looking forward to earning his black belt in karate later this summer, and after that he plans on continuing to attend classes so he can help teach younger kids. For Ryder, helping other people comes naturally.
Age: 8 • Town: Durand
Her true calling: To help animals!
Rhylee West loves animals. We mean, she really loves them. When describing her home in Durand, she talks about what animals you could see if you were there: rabbits, cats, and sometimes deer — but no pandas.
Pandas are her favorite animal of all. When Rhylee grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian, so that she can take care of critters whether they be scaly, fluffy, feathery, or slimy.
She once helped take care of a stray cat when it wasn’t feeling well. First, she fed it. But it had funny scabs on its legs. “I took it to the vet so they can take care of it,” Rhylee said. Rhylee likes to go out with her family and look at things; especially to the Irvine Park Zoo.
They have chickens and ducks, and horses, but she points out that there are no deer or flamingos. “You need to learn about animals so that you can be a vet,” Rhylee said. She plans to do a lot of learning from scientists and from her teachers when she starts 3rd grade in the fall.
Age: 9 • Town: Washington
Her claim to fame: Dancing with the Moscow Ballet two years in a row
When they called Katie’s number, she was ecstatic! She was going to dance a duet with one of the ballerinas with The Moscow Ballet on RCU stage in the Pablo Center at the Confluence.
She was excited to dance with someone so talented. “It was kind of nerve-wracking, because you’re with these professional ballerinas that are really, really good, and once I was dancing I felt really nice, but I was really scared or nervous that I was going to do something wrong,” Katie remembers.
“But they were actually really nice.” Katie is an athlete of many talents; she plays soccer and basketball, she runs, swims, and dances, among many other interests. “I really like trying new things to see what I want to do when I’m older,” she said.
“It’s hard to do them all, but it’s worth it.” In her free time, Katie likes to run races with her family, play Uno Attack, and goof around outside. “I really like that Eau Claire is a small town, and there’s everything in it,” Katie said. “It’s calm, and there’s everything that you need, but it’s like a perfect little world.”
Age: 9 • Town: Elk Mound
His good deed: Inspiring a “sugar and spice” drive for The Community Table
Nine-year-old Weston likes to travel all over. He especially likes making maps of all the places he’s been to. Some of the coolest spots he’s visited are California and Lake Geneva, but one nearby location makes the top of his list.
“My favorite place to visit is the Mall of America, because it’s so big, it’s the best mall ever because there’s rides there,” Weston said. But he also has a fondness for his home. “The school is pretty good — you get to move up to middle school early when you’re in 5th grade,” Weston explained about Elk Mound.
He likes the school, the baseball fields, his house, his bunk bed, and to listen to his dad play electric guitar, even if it can get loud sometimes. Two years ago, he decided to pick up music himself, and began strumming on a ukulele. He knows 19 or 20 chords, he said, and can jam to Vance Joy’s “Riptide.”
He plays and sings at church, at home, and once with the Mini Mounders choir. Weston also has a big heart for the Chippewa Valley community. Once, when given the choice between spending $100 on himself or for others, he decided to buy spices, sugar, and other baking and cooking ingredients to donate to The Community Table in Eau Claire.
“I decided to do that since I didn’t know what I wanted for my birthday,” Weston said. And he’s glad he did. “I feel proud of myself,” he said.
Age: 10 • Town: Elk Mound
His precocios position: Youngest member of the Chippewa Valley Woodturners Guild
When he joined the Chippewa Valley Woodturners Guild, Adrian York undoubtedly reduced the group’s average age: Adrian is 10, and most of the guild’s members are around retirement. “Some of them seem a little surprised,” he says of other woodturners when he got involved.
Still, the age gap hasn’t prevented Adrian from turning his attention to the hobby. “My grandpa mentioned it one day, and I started getting really interested in it, watching videos on YouTube and reading books,” Adrian explains. That was about a year and a half ago, and now you’ll often find Adrian working the lathe in his grandfather Joe’s woodshop (when he’s not playing on his Xbox or beating grandpa at Monopoly).
Adrian began making spindles and soon advanced to bowls. His favorite project so far is a large cherry wood bowl that he’s still working on. Despite his youth, two of Adrian’s pieces were included in a recent display by the Chippewa Valley Woodturners Guild at the Menomonie Public Library.
Beyond his woodturning prowess, another factor sets Adrian apart from the other soon-to-be-fifth-graders at Mound View Elementary School in Elk Mound: He’s a globe-trotting traveler who enjoys seeing new places. His most ambitious trip was a visit to Egypt, where he visited the pyramids at Giza and other sites.
Back home in the Chippewa Valley, however, you’re more likely to find him exploring the woods near his home, looking for material for his latest project.
Age: 7 • Town: Chippewa Falls
Her big goal: To help people become better learners through sports
Avery starts second grade in the fall, and she’s a little nervous about it. “Maybe I won’t know math,” she worried, but she followed the concern with a confident, “but I’ll probably learn it.”
She’s an all-seasons girl, with a love for swimming in the summer, sledding in winter, and jumping in big piles of leaves in the fall. She also spends her time playing softball, dancing, and cheerleading. Cheer is her favorite. “I get to learn how to do these cool things, and how to be flexible so when I grow up maybe I can be a contortionist,” Avery said.
Right now, she says she’s kind of flexible, but she’s working her way up so that she can be as flexible as any contortionist. If she achieves her dream, she plans to perform in the Chippewa Valley. Avery also loves to help other people excel in sports.
“I like to teach people sports because if they’re kind of down and they don’t know what to do I can kind of help them know what to do so maybe we can win,” she said. “I just like to help people so they can become a better learner.”
Age: 7 • Town: Chippewa Falls
His Mission: To be a ninja with a big heart
Samuel Bergeman wants to be a ninja when he grows up — or, as he says, “a ninja who fights bad guys.” He knows that in order to be a good ninja, he needs to have a big heart.
Samuel was adopted from Ethiopia, and he enjoys sharing his background with his friends at school and celebrating diversity by being a friend to all people. Samuel acts as a helping hand to his big brother, who has multiple disabilities. He also spreads love to his classmates at school.
“When anybody’s hurt, like at school, I cheer them up,” he said. In addition to having a big heart, Samuel knows that in order to be a ninja, he needs to have a good education. As a second grader, Samuel is well on his way to ninja status as he learns many important things at school.
He likes learning about math, numbers, and types of rocks — river rocks, volcanic rocks, and salt rocks. “I’m really interested in lava and volcanoes,” he said. His favorite subject is science, and he’s also interested in bugs. Specifically, he really likes caterpillars, which is pretty cool because they turn into butterflies.
Age: 8 • Town: Eau Claire
Her Talent: Shredding hills on skis as fast as she can
Greyson Sparkes started skiing when she was only two years old. When other kids that age were just starting to learn to run, Greyson was already hitting the slopes and feeling the wind in her hair. Now that she’s eight, it’s no wonder she’s an extremely accomplished ski racer.
She’s taken home two gold medals in competition, and she’s constantly getting better and better. Pretty much every weekend in the winter, you can still find her and her lifelong friend Aubrey taking on the hills at Afton Alps. At her young age, Greyson has already taken her love of skiing all over the country, on mountains in Utah and Colorado.
She’s strong-willed and immensely talented, even though she said her favorite part about skiing is “splashing my mom with snow.” She told us she never gets scared on the slopes, and she loves skiing through the trees. When the snow goes away, Greyson said she likes taking the boat out with her family, playing with squirt guns, and she’s one of the only girls in Boy Scout Pack 31, where she said she’s learning a lot and is excited to get her pocketknife so she can start whittling.
This second-grader lets nothing stand in her way, and is ready to face any challenge on or off the ski hill.
Age: 9 • Town: White Hall / Augusta
Her calling: Using reiki, essential oils, and fairy gardens to make people feel good
Sophie just might be one of the youngest reiki healers in the state. Maybe even the country. At the age of nine, Sophie is already wildly passionate about wellness, whether its balancing people’s energies with reiki, giving readings with her spirit animal oracle cards, crafting essential oil bracelets, or planting fairy gardens.
“I just want to make sure that everybody feels good about themselves and that they’re happy,” she said. She’s a young entrepreneur with a business called Sophie’s Creations. She loves crafting with her grandma, painting, and creating all kinds of awesome things.
In the last year, she’s had three sales in Baldwin and Osseo all by herself, where she sells fairy gardens made out of tackle boxes or teacups, garden accessories, and essential oil bracelets. “They’re really nice because if you don’t want to get the essential oils on your skin you can wear the bracelet,” she said, adding: “Plus, it’s fashionable.” Sophie is already an expert on healthy, natural living and is well-versed in plants, oils, crystals and all kinds of cool stuff.
In the summer, you can most likely find Sophie outdoors taking in the scenery of nature or, if you’re lucky, you can buy a bracelet or fairy garden at her next sale.
Age: 10 • Town: Eau Claire
His hobbies: Hurricane kicks and smoked meats
Tristan’s a young buck, but already by the age of nine, he had his blackbelt in karate. And it wasn’t easy. With a lot of energy and discipline — and a five-hour test — he’s developed into a well-rounded karate kid with additional experience with cool weapons like the sword, bo staff, and nunchucks. “Next I want to earn my second degree and I want to learn how to do a rainbow kick and hurricane kick,” he said.
He’s always learning and devoting his time to taking on new things. Like cooking, for example. A big fan of the Great British Bake-Off and BBQ With Franklin, Tristan’s trying out new recipes in the kitchen, and on the grill.
He’s learned how to smoke brisket, make sausage, and smoke turkey legs. And he’s paid his barbecue prowess forward by contributing a smoked brisket to a fundraiser that helped raise $600 for Camp Manitou, one of his favorite places.
“I have fun in the kitchen,” he says. “I like trying new foods and recipes.” On top of that, Tristan’s involved with Boy Scouts where he’s made a lot of friends, camped, played Gaga Ball — and someday he hopes to become an Eagle Scout.
Apart from all his adventures, you can find Tristan riding bike, having water gun fights with his friends, writing stories, drawing, and hanging out all over town. “Eau Claire is cool because there is so much to do and explore,” he said.