Wendy Crank, of San Miguel County Juvenile Diversion, and paintball businessman Sonny Lopez went before Norwood’s town trustees last week to ask for funding for a paintball field to be used for a youth event in town. Crank said she felt the town should support the paintball request to help young people who may be struggling with mental health and more during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crank said no safe and sober after-prom party is possible because of the pandemic, which is something that Juvenile Diversion typically plans for the Norwood High School and annually gets financial support for.
Crank said that with limited sports this year and the stress of social isolation, local youth need something fun to look forward to. According to a Healthy Kids Colorado survey, 77 percent of the kids surveyed in Telluride reported they were depressed. In Norwood, 43 percent said they’d thought about suicide.
Lopez told the board that a donor in Telluride offered to give more than $2,000 to help build a local paintball field. He said he needed roughly the same amount from Norwood to complete the deal for this spring.
He added paintball is “COVID-friendly” because of the required masks, natural social distancing and the outdoor environment.
Trustee Jaime Schultz said she was alarmed at the survey statistics. She said it was “big information” and wanted to support the paintball cause for Norwood kids. Trustee Candy Meehan said she also wanted to support local youth and get their bodies moving. She agreed it was a complicated time for teens due to isolation from the pandemic.
Other staff and board members were also supportive.
Trustee Shawn Fallon, though, questioned the town supporting a commercial business, if the paintball field was mobile and could be used repeatedly for profit. He also said he requested town money for six years to help start the disc golf course and was denied. He said it didn’t make sense for the town to contribute more than $2,000 to a local business after a few minutes of board discussion.
“I love the idea and concept,” Fallon said, “but it seems like a commercial business for you, and we are paying for your commercial business.”
Lopez agreed the paintball field has the potential to be taken on a trailer and used in other places, but he said the idea is to keep the field regional. He told trustees it could be used for fundraising purposes in Norwood, or to bring additional people to the annual fair and rodeo, as well as for Pioneer Day.
“We are doing this at cost,” he told trustees, adding his business associates were not making a profit off of the Town of Norwood.
The motion was approved, and the town will spend $2,053 on the paintball field, though Fallon was the lone dissenting vote.
The paintball event for youth will happen at the San Miguel County Fairgrounds.
In response to the school survey and its “alarming” statistics, Crank said she’s working with school guidance counselor Rick Williams and other mental health responders, including representatives of the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office, to support local youth. She said there are high school groups on campus meeting regularly now for behavioral health therapy, and teletherapy by computer also exists as an option for students.
She said she and Norwood school officials want to make counseling services simple and easy for all students.