Trudy Merritt, one of the best-known and respected people in North Platte, was selected to be honored with a special tree planting in observance of the local Arbor Day Celebration on May 9.

“If you or your child learned to swim, ever took part in swim competitions, or became a lifeguard, you probably have Trudy, this living dynamo, to thank,” Tree Board member Tia McGuire said.

For 31 years, Trudy has been one of the mainstays of our Recreation Center. She came on the job as the Aquatic Manager — teaching, certifying, and managing lifeguards, CPR, and working in all aspects of water safety for all ages.   

One of Trudy’s proudest accomplishments is the establishment of the Platte River Fitness series, a series of 5K and 10K races that she engineered out a desire to get people up and moving. 

In 1993, she decided to train for and participate in the Nebraskaland Days Road Run. It was a pivotal decision. She realized that the effort of running races can be a life lesson in the importance of fortitude and endurance.

By 2001, Trudy and other enthusiasts decided to combine the runs with worthy causes. Since then, up to 20 races are scheduled each year. Some fund scholarships and others support causes like the “Ruck Sack Race” for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) awareness.

Mayor Brandon Kelliher and Trudy Merritt. Photo by Tia McGuire

Some races are developed to help with medical expenses for ailing members of the community. There have been relays, stair climbs, color runs, trail runs, and obstacle course runs. 

The next race is the Tyler Vanderheiden Memorial Race on May 24. Not only do participants pay an entry fee, but many businesses and individuals donate through sponsorships. 

Trudy is also the outreach coordinator for the West Central District Health Department.  

Merritt selected the tree to plant — an Aspen. Aspen trees grow roots that can then start another “sister” aspen. Forests of aspens are known to have grown from their interconnectedness. 

It is a fitting metaphor for Trudy Merritt’s life. Weaving people together for a stronger community has always been her goal, McGuire said. 

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