On a mission to make a difference

will not fall victim to a blind eye and is raising funds to create a renovated tennis and basketball court. ~ Audrey Alfson
will not fall victim to a blind eye and is raising funds to create a renovated tennis and basketball court.
~ Audrey Alfson

By Audrey Alfson

Special to the Caledonia Argus


If Owen Onsgard has his way, students of the Houston School District will be enjoying a renovated multi-purpose tennis and basketball court by next spring. The long-time Houston resident, together with the Hurricane Foundation and with the blessing of the school district, have big plans to turn an eyesore into a functional and attractive sports arena.

“I just felt it was an underutilized facility,” Onsgard said. No one would argue with him. The site, located on school property next to the elementary school, is a fenced-in area with a cracked and weed-ridden asphalt floor. Two poles in the ground identify that it used to be a tennis court, but it hasn’t seen a net in many years. Most school days, all you’ll find are bicycles parked against the fence.

Many folks have looked at the space and wondered what to do with it, but a television show inspired Onsgard to take action.

“My son and I were watching the Vanilla Ice Project on television. It’s a Do-It-Yourself type of show. And they were showing a renovation of a cracked and unused tennis court.  We said, ‘Hey! We could do that!’”

Onsgard’s research brought him to Snap-Sports, a company that specializes in multi-purpose athletic flooring that snaps into place and is virtually maintenance-free. Working with a sales representative, Onsgard came up with a design for a floor that would provide layout for three basketball courts and a tennis court.  Further plans include lights and even the ability to flood the area during the winter to create an ice rink. But none of it is cheap.

The cost for the essentials: the court floor (which includes the repair of the existing foundation), poles and goals is $43,000. Lighting and an ice rink would add another $17,000.  In just a few short months, however, they have raised over $6,500. Onsgard is optimistic.

The Hurricane Foundation, a 501(c)(3)nonprofit organization created to support the Houston School District, has taken on the project and is just beginning to apply for grants and solicit donations.  The end product will belong to the school district, but the entire community will benefit for years to come.

That sense of community legacy is what drives Onsgard to make the court renovation happen. It’s important to him not just because the Onsgard family has been a part of Houston since 1850, or because of his 11-year-old son, Odin. Onsgard has cancer.

Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in February 2012, Onsgard has spent the past year and a half battling the physical,  emotional and financial effects of the disease.  The court renovation has been a well-needed outlet.

“This project has been kind of a greedy thing,” Onsgard said. “It keeps my mind off darker thoughts that can be overwhelming.  It’s been therapeutic for sure.”

As he stands in the middle of the dilapidated court, Onsgard sports his “Support the Court” t-shirt and talks about the renovated surface, the new goals, lights; he imagines the kids shooting hoops and learning to play tennis. “It’s gonna be beautiful,” he said. “It’s gonna be awesome.”

If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the court renovation project, mail a check to: The Hurricane Foundation, PO Box 655, Houston, MN 55943.