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Oh, baby — having a ball at the inaugural Knight Crawl

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The first-ever Knight Crawl finished in a blink.

Isla Weigel, 1½-year-old daughter of Jeremy Weigel and Nicole Anderson of Carroll, was the runaway winner.

It took Isla just seconds to dash the 56 feet from her dad at the starting line — the top of the free-throw circle on the west side of the Kuemper Catholic High School basketball court — to her mom at the finish line — the other free-throw circle.

“I just held my arms out and said, ‘Come here, Isla,’ and she came right to me,” Anderson said immediately after the race.

For Isla, victory was sweet. Mom immediately rewarded her with a Dum Dum sucker. But it also paid off for the family. Isla’s 4½-year-old sister, Espyn, is a Kuemper preschooler; Mom operates a home day care, called Espyn and Friends; Dad is a contractor with Brown Supply Co. of Ames. The victory earned a $50 scrip gift card from Kuemper that’s good with local and national retailers.

Kuemper Marketing Director Susie Hulst credits School President John Steffes with proposing a baby crawl.

“He saw one at a (University of Northern Iowa) basketball game and said, ‘We have to do this,’ ” Hulst recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah, we do. This is awesome.’ And it also ties in our Future Knights program I’ve been building up the last couple of years.”

Kids who are signed up in the Future Knights program receive Kuemper-themed cards, including a personal note from Hulst, on their first through fourth birthdays. When children reach preschool and kindergarten ages, Kuemper sends the parents registration information.

Hulst said the Future Knights program combined with a demographics bump may have led to Kuemper’s record enrollment of 94 preschoolers this year.

Hulst noted that Knight Crawl also was a way to promote the school system’s scrip program.

“It’s a win/win for the parents and for us,” she said.

She said of the scrip, “Businesses set a rebate on cards. Half of that rebate goes to Kuemper’s general budget, and the other half goes to the child’s tuition.”

The Knight Crawl was open to boys and girls 18 months and younger and was held during halftime of the Kuemper’s girls varsity basketball game with Shenandoah on Friday, Feb. 7.

The Kuemper website, promoting the event, said, “One parent/guardian will be at the starting line with the baby, and one will be at the finish line coaxing the baby to cross. Parents should bring a toy or snack as a way to coax their child to the finish line.”

Some of the contestants headed directly to the finish line, while others took a more time and strayed a little off course. The event had only one true crawler.

Anderson, the winner’s mom, said she and daughter Isla might have had an advantage.

“She’s attached to my hip, so I knew when she was separated from me she would dart for me pretty fast,” she said. “Being home with her all day, she’s used to being with me all the time, so when I leave or walk away from me, she tries to quickly follow.”

Anderson said of signing up for the event, “I just thought it would be fun to do. We’re not originally from Carroll (they’ve lived here about five years), so when I see activities pop up, I try to get involved and include the kids where I can. I thought it would be a fun, cute thing to watch, and it was fun. We had a blast. I thought it was adorable watching all those kids run to their parents.”

Hulst said the Crawl’s turnout of 11 contestants was ideal, spanning nearly the width of the court.

It turned into a toddler sprint, but that’s OK. We’ll still call it the Knight Crawl, and we’ll have it in future years,” Hulst said. “It’s all in fun. I think the parents and grandparents really enjoyed it. Everyone was in a good mood, so that was good. … They were just super cute, we loved it, and I think everyone loved it.”

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