Youth running programs serving more than the 11,000 children in the U.S. to receive needed financial support to combat the inactivity crisis by getting kids active through running.
ARLINGTON, VA - The Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) has announced its 2015 Kids Run the Nation grant recipients. Twenty-eight programs throughout the U.S. serving more than 11,000 children will receive a total of $22,760 in grants from the RRCA. In addition, the RRCA will donate more than 13,000 copies of the Kids Run the Nation: A Running Guide for Kids booklets to be given to program participants in twenty-six different programs, an in-kind donation valued at over $14,000.
“The youth running programs receiving grant funding this year represent the breadth and depth of the Kids Run the Nation Funds’ impact, both geographically and demographically,” said Erica Gminski, RRCA youth program coordinator.
“The need to financially support youth running continues to grow as more evidence-based research shows that organized running programs for youth is a key component in combating childhood obesity,” explained Jean Knaack, RRCA Executive Director. “Foundations and corporations need to stop funding studies on the problem of inactivity and start putting more money into funding the solution: activity programs. We received more than 275 applications for programs that are getting 75,000-plus children running regularly, and they are all deserving of financial support.”
The RRCA’s Kids Run the Nation program is a gender inclusive, multi-week, turnkey, youth running program designed to meet the physical activity goals outline by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Since 2007, the RRCA has provided over $137,000 in small grants to deserving youth running programs, serving over 80,000 children, through the Kids Run the Nation Fund. The RRCA’s vision is to help establish locally managed youth running programs in every school in America.
Congratulations to the following Kids Run the Nation grantees:
Trek Around Tazewell – Tremont, IL
The Tazewell County Health Department provides after school programming in 18 schools within the county. More than 450 students in kindergarten through sixth grade attend the daily after school program that has a core component of physical activity. The 24-week Trek Around Tazewell running program will be incorporated into the physical fitness requirements, and all students to participate. Students will use pedometers to track their mileage each week with the goal of reaching a total of 132 miles, which is the circumference of Tazewell County. In addition to the mileage log, students will have the ability to reflect on their journey and experiences by completing a weekly running journal. Proper hydration, heart rate monitoring, endurance, strength, speed, and agility are some of the topics that will be covered in the program. Students will develop individual sustainability plans with help from program staff to ensure ongoing success upon completion of the program. Trek Around Tazewell will culminate with a one-mile fun run.
Maverick Running Club – Austin, TX
Last year, Austin educator Roxanne Walker and her colleague Kaeli Helmink were inspired by the movie McFarland to start a running club at Mendez Middle School, a Title I school serving a student population that is 95% economically disadvantaged. Their goals are to lower the obesity rate in the community of Dove Springs and to introduce healthy eating and lifestyle choices to its residents. Approximately 40 students meet once per week after school to stretch, run, set personal goals, and review progress in the program. The first 20 minutes of each weekly meeting are dedicated to logging activities and food intake to better understand energy balance, as well as discussing proper hydration and healthy snacking. To date, the club has participated in five community running events with the help of local donations.
Scott Scorpions Run Club – Chester, VA
Led by teachers at Elizabeth Scott Elementary School, the Scott Scorpions Run Club meets two mornings per week before school from September to April. Forty-six percent of students at Scott receive free or reduced lunch. Growing from 50 students in the club’s first year, more than 250 students in second through fifth grade now run laps around the outdoor track each session. The training culminates in a community 5K running event followed by a Healthy Family Festival each spring. To accommodate students living in one of the largest trailer parks in the school community, program leaders introduced an after school Run Club in the trailer park led by adult volunteers. Teachers discuss the importance of healthy eating and hydration while warming up, and later select a student who demonstrated the most positive attitude for the day to lead all students in the final stretch. Run Club members also participate in several kids runs in the area through partnerships with local adult running clubs.
Gastineau Trail Runners – Juneau, AK
The Gastineau Trail Runners Club is a noncompetitive club established in 2013 to promote youth running. It meets weekly after school to run on a trail built by students at Gastineau School, and to explore neighboring trails on Douglas Island in Juneau, Alaska. The school’s boundaries encompass some of Juneau’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, and Gastineau is designated a Title I school. Sixty children in kindergarten through fifth grade run, jog, and walk at each club meeting, with older students leading squads of younger students as they learn about pacing, geography, and the history of the local area as they run on the trails. Physical education teacher and program director Dirk Miller provides nutritious snacks at the conclusion of each club meeting and leads discussions on healthy eating and active lifestyles. His mission is to help students fall in love with a healthy, recreational activity that becomes a lifelong passion while taking advantage of the abundant recreational activities in Alaska.
W.W. Gordon Elementary Jogging Club – North Chesterfield, VA
W.W. Gordon Elementary School’s Jogging Club was established in 1979 when the school first opened and has been an important component of the Gordon experience ever since, currently serving 240 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Jogging Club has not only benefitted Gordon students’ health, but has also served to build confidence and encourage socialization. Through bi-weekly morning jogs, Jogging Club increases Gordon students’ athletic stamina and helps them better focus on their work throughout the day. Jogging Club is held every Wednesday and Friday morning in the Fall and Spring. Students run, jog, or walk four laps around the football field to complete one mile. Their miles accumulate each year they participate, and they receive incentives as they reach mileage milestones. During stretching, warmup, and cool down time, the parent volunteers instruct students on opportunities to make healthy choices and to increase exercise time outside of school.
Manhattan Cross Country Club – Manhattan, KS
Since 2004, the Manhattan Cross Country Club program has promoted age-appropriate distance running to encourage lifetime fitness and health in its six-week program. The youth population served includes 120 students in kindergarten through eighth grade from 18 schools representing three school districts, many of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch. The Club meets three days per week with an emphasis on providing an introduction to the sport through lessons on running and healthy eating rather than a competitive environment. In partnership with area physical education teachers, the Club hosts an event each September for approximately 1,050 youth - the largest kids fun run in the state of Kansas. The Manhattan Cross Country Club strives to be an objective, positive force to encourage youth to run for the enjoyment of the activity.
Trailblazers Running Club – Stamford, CT
The Trailblazers Running Club is comprised of all 120 students at Trailblazers Academy charter middle school in Stamford, Connecticut, an alternative educational program for low-income, high-need students, nearly 100% of whom are youth of color with 95% qualifying for free or reduced lunch. The club meets twice per week and includes runs on sidewalks, trails, tracks, hills, beaches, stairs, and a one-mile course through the school building during inclement weather. Small groups train as part of the school’s physical education program, and the entire club participates in school-wide events. Trailblazers Running Club members receive instruction on pacing, overall fitness, nutrition, and muscle development, and nutrition education is offered in a classroom setting.
Spring Mills Sprinters – Martinsburg, WV
West Virginia consistently ranks among the least healthy states in the U.S., and an average of 31% of West Virginia adults are inactive. In an effort to promote health, wellness, team-building and self-esteem through running, the Spring Mills Sprinters recreational running club will serve 40 students in sixth through eighth grades at Spring Mills Middle School as an optional extended day activity during the Fall and Spring semesters. The club will meet twice per week and will focus on the science and psychology of running along with the health and social benefits of the sport. The three program leaders, all teachers at Spring Mills, will deliver lessons on health, nutrition, self-esteem, team-building and coping skills, all of which are especially pertinent for middle school students. In addition to these topics, the leaders will instruct and demonstrate proper running form, shoe fitting, pacing, distance-building, healthy nutrition, stretching, and injury prevention.
Kids Run the Nation – George Cromwell Elementary – Glen Burnie, MD
The Kids Run the Nation program at George Cromwell Elementary School is being introduced by Brittany Aley, the school’s physical education teacher, and will receive assistance from other teachers and staff. This new program will be open to students in the third, fourth, and fifth grades to start. Students will meet for ten weeks in Spring 2016. Plans are included to expand to students in first and second grades in Fall 2016.The emphasis of this program will be to educate students about running in order to develop lifelong participation in physical activity and exercise. Participants will track their distance with pedometers during each session, and will learn the importance of heart rate monitoring and how to monitor heart rate before, during, and after exercise. Program staff will engage parents and guardians with an informational presentation at the start of the program, and will communicate goals and progress via students’ activity logs. The program will culminate in a 5k event to celebrate the achievements of all participants.
Knoxville Youth Runs! – Knoxville, TN
Knoxville Track Club is partnering with the Community Schools Program and Great Schools Partnership to offer Knoxville Youth Runs!, an inner-city, after-school running development program in Knoxville, Tennessee, for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. After a successful pilot session at Christenberry Elementary School in Spring 2015, the program was offered again in the Fall and will expand to two additional schools in Spring 2016. Knoxville Youth Runs! is led by decorated track and field athlete Wilbur Hawkins and addresses physical, cognitive, and social skills. The program will focus on good technique, participation, self-improvement, increasing workload gradually, and participating in age-appropriate running events in an effort to teach students that running is fun.
Miller Fitness Challenge – Holliston, MA
Now in its second year, the Miller Fitness Challenge (MFC) is a 21-week health and fitness running program that provides opportunities for 750 students at Miller Elementary School to challenge themselves, their classmates, and their families. The program originated at Elmwood Elementary School in Hopkinton eight years ago, and program director Laura McKenzie is working to expand the program to other school districts. The goal of the program is for students to run or walk the distance of a marathon – 26.2 miles over 21 weeks – and students with physical and intellectual disabilities are provided accommodations to participate. During the fall, students learn the benefits of running, goal setting and nutrition. Starting in December, students begin training in Physical Education class, running a half mile once per week with instruction on pace setting. Next, students are encouraged to run or walk additional miles at home with friends and family. The program’s emphasis is on total miles, not speed, and students enter their running data into a database where classrooms compete against each other based on the total number of miles run. The classrooms who have accumulated the most miles per student earn the Golden Sneaker trophy for their grade, which proudly remains in that classroom until the following school year.
Kids Run Flagstaff – Flagstaff, AZ
Now in its second year, Kids Run Flagstaff provides opportunities for youth from all Flagstaff-area schools, including home-schoolers, to come together in a community running club setting. Meeting twice each week year-round at local tracks and parks, Kids Run Flagstaff serves 65 youth ages 9 to 18 from diverse backgrounds, including children from several Native American tribes. The program’s mission is to foster enthusiasm for an active lifestyle through running, and it strives to instill a love of the sport and the value of healthy choices in a fun and encouraging environment. Coaches lead discussions about teamwork, team building, sportsmanship, gratitude, leadership, as well as strategies to manage physical and emotional pain. Kids Run Flagstaff has also hosted mini clinics on nutrition, injury prevention, sports psychology, and trail etiquette. Participants’ attendance and miles are tracked at each session, motivating runners to earn mile patches.
Rockland Road Runners Kids Program – Congers, NY
Rockland Road Runners Kids uses a team-based philosophy to help kids learn valuable lessons about goal setting and making physical activity an important part of their daily lives. The RRR Kids program is designed for children of all fitness levels in kindergarten through eighth grade, and will serve 100 children to start. With the help of Rockland Road Runners coaches and members, kids will learn the fundamentals of running at age appropriate distances while having fun. By providing support, encouragement, and guidance through his balanced approach to training, RRR president Jonathan Farrell will encourage participants to maintain a healthy lifestyle and remain life-long runners.
SRE Mileage Club – St. Rose, LA
St. Rose Elementary School is located in a suburb of New Orleans, Louisiana, and serves 660 students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Most students are from low income households with 79% receiving free or reduced lunch. Many children have nutritional challenges and/or lack healthy lifestyle practices. Implemented seven years ago by physical education teacher Jacob Thompson, the SRE Mileage Club encourages and coaches students to improve their endurance throughout the school year while running, jogging, or walking laps during the first 15 minutes of all P.E. classes. Distances are tracked on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis and students are rewarded for each five miles they run or walk. Students are also encouraged to participate in local fun runs and races to put their hard work to the test.
Zucker Middle Running Club – North Charleston, SC
The Zucker Middle School Running Club serves boys and girls ages eleven to fourteen, 98% of whom come from high poverty backgrounds. The program emphasizes participation, preparation for competition, and developing a life-long running habit by setting goals, logging miles, and working to improve their endurance and speed. Students use math skills to calculate speed over distance and graph the total number of miles run, and receive incentives for every five miles they log. Students in the 2015-16 program who reach 25 miles by January 2016 will be invited to run with other local kids in the Charleston Youth Marathon. Organized by Assistant Principal Andrea Gadsden and dedicated teachers, the program aims to provide a quality extra-curricular experience to more than 70 Zucker students.
Run Away Mustangs – Bluffton, SC
Introduced this Fall at a Run to School event, the Run Away Mustangs program aims to combine academics and fitness in an after school setting for 45 sixth grade students at Bluffton Middle School. The school serves a burgeoning population of English language learners and is designated a Title I school. Each week, students stretch and warm up, participate in a group run, and receive lessons from teachers, guidance counselors, influential members of the community, and local sports figures related to success in the sport of running and how it can carry over to a student’s academic career. Lifelong runner, program director, and science teacher Kathleen Sanz educates students on the science, anatomy, and physiology of running, and teachers volunteer their time to tutor students at the conclusion of the athletic portion of the program.
SRA Kids – Sacramento, CA
The SRA Kids, hosted by the Sacramento Running Association (SRA), serves 4,000 students annually and is designed to train chidren to run the California International Marathon’s 2.62-mile maraFUNrun held on the same day as the marathon. Students from 11 Sacramento-area school districts meet 3-times per week for eight weeks from October to early December. Each participant receives achievement ribbons for 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon cumulative distances, a finisher’s medal handed out at the finish line of the maraFUNrun, and optional extension into the SRA School Year Program. The program emphasizes participation, promoting an active lifestyle, teaching kids to set goals while working to achieve them, and helping to develop self-confidence while achieving milestone distances and experiencing the thrill of race day at the maraFUNrun.
Blazing Bulldogs Run Club – Tualatin, OR
Since its founding in 2012, the Blazing Bulldogs Run Club has seen participation grow from 45 to 100 students at Bridgeport Elementary School. Sixty-four percent of the student population receive free or reduced lunch, and the majority of their nutrition and exercise often occurs at school. Over the course of six after-school sessions, program director Leah Findtner and parent volunteers lead participants through a large group running activity, small group rotations, and an educational “Coach’s Talk,” after which kids are served a healthy snack. Students earn participation charms and are encouraged to be active with their families outside of school. All Bridgeport children and families are invited to participate in a fun run at the conclusion of the program.
Viejo Run Club – Mission Viejo, CA
The Viejo Run Club will be open to all students at Viejo Elementary School, which serves a student population that is 76% Hispanic, and the school is classified as Title I. The club will encourage healthy lifestyle choices and staying active through running. Participants will log miles and participate in Kids Run the OC, where they will run a total of 25.2 miles with the Run Club at school and complete the last mile at the Orange County Marathon. Club meetings will take place during P.E. class time, at lunch, and after school and will include lessons on running-related topics from program director Lauren Guite and experienced runners from the local community.
Heliotrope Kids Run the Nation – Maywood, CA
Heliotrope Elementary School will introduce the Heliotrope Kids Run the Nation program to prepare its 120 fifth graders for the FitnessGram assessment as part of the Presidential Youth Fitness Program. The school’s student population is 99% Hispanic, and the school is designated Title I. Both in the classroom and on the playground during P.E. class, students will receive instruction on warm-up and cool-down exercises, pacing, goal setting, and hydration two to three days each week. Program director Rocio Cano and fellow teachers will teach students to determine their individual heart rate target zones to improve pacing and achieve goals, and will demonstrate how to read food labels to make healthier choices.
Crimfit Summer Running Club – Flint, MI
The CrimFit Summer Running Club was established more than twenty years ago to encourage youth in the city of Flint (an RRCA Runner Friendly Community) and Genesee County, Michigan to be more active, targeting children that are interested in learning effective running skills and participating in physical activity. During the ten-week program, Club Captain volunteers lead youth ages five to seventeen in learning running techniques, developing S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, time-bound) goals, understanding the various types of physical activity (aerobic endurance, strength, and flexibility), and discussing proper nutrition, hydration, form, and injury prevention. At the end of the Summer Running Club, all participants are invited to participate in the Kids Invitational. Participants may run the ¼-mile, ½-mile, or the 1-mile race, where all participants receive a commemorative ribbon for participation. Program director Sandra Sellers has seen the program grow from 458 youth in 2014 to 702 in 2015.
McKinley Running Club – Tulsa, OK
The McKinley Running Club focuses on improving the health and fitness of at-risk students at McKinley Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 100% of whom receive free or reduced lunch. The running club has been active for more than three years, serving more than 100 students during that time. Many students join the program having never run for longer than a minute. Basic fitness is emphasized in the fall and winter, while some students choose to train for local races such as the Cinco de Mayo one-mile fun run in the spring. McKinley’s physical education teacher donates her time to teach participants about healthy nutrition, body image, and fitness tips both in the classroom and out in the fields where running instruction takes place. Founded by fourth grade teacher and Ironman competitor Charles Vachapittack, the McKinley Running Club is now led by sixth grade teacher Noah Stout, who works to inspire a love of exercise and being healthy in his students.
Saint Louis Blazers – Brentwood, MO
Having fun, learning, and improving are the three main principles of the Saint Louis Blazers, a youth running program founded in 1992 that serves 100 youth ages eight to eighteen. Blazers meet twice per week in the fall and spring seasons. Warmups, cool-downs, relays, and running games encourage teamwork among program participants and allow Blazers to draw motivation and knowledge from each other. Gradually building strength, endurance, and confidence over time, Blazer youth come away with a wealth of knowledge about proper running form, running strategy and techniques, nutrition, and stretching. Parents and guardians attend a meeting early each season to better understand the program’s mission and goals as a way to encourage their children and reinforce what they learn in the program at home. The fall season works toward an all-ages cross country event, while the spring season culminates in the local Festival of Miles charity running event.
Waupaca Mighty Milers – Waupaca, WI
Beginning five years ago as a way to get more youth involved in the local fun run, the Waupaca Mighty Milers meet twice each week in the spring and fall seasons. The program serves 150 disadvantaged students in elementary and middle school grades and aims to teach conditioning, pacing, fitness principles, goal setting, and proper running form, as well as to instill a positive attitude about running and physical activity. Incentives such as contests, tokens, raffles, and scavenger hunts keep running fun, and students are encouraged to run at home and track their mileage. In the fall, youth prepare for a turkey trot run and walk for students, staff, parents, and the local community, where participants form teams and predict their times for the chance to win their Thanksgiving turkey.
Kids Run for Fun – Bloomington, IL
Kids Run for Fun is a ten-week summer running program hosted by Lake Run Club in Bloomington, Illinois for children ages pre-school to twelve years old. Each Friday evening, children run age-appropriate distances around the track at Illinois Wesleyan University and receive a ribbon at the finish line. The program encourages kids to stay active in the summer and brings families together for physical activity and socializing. The program’s annual charity night benefits the local community through shoe drives, school supply drives, and non-perishable food drives. At the highly anticipated season-ending trophy night, all 700 participants receive a trophy to celebrate the importance of being active and making healthy choices. The program celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015 and has hosted generations of families throughout the years.
LOW Running Bears – Baudette, MN
The LOW Running Bears is a new program that will take place one afternoon each week over the course of 6-weeks, and will serve 30 Lake of the Woods School students in third through eighth grades. More than 50% of LOW students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The Baudette, MN community’s remote location and high level of poverty offer few resources for youth, and the program will help introduce young people to a lifetime of fitness activity. Staffed by certified teachers, coaches, and paraprofessionals and aided by volunteers, participants will have opportunities to experience a variety of training and running environments including trail running, track running, running on our local bike path, aqua-jogging in the school pool, a mini-triathlon, strength training, and cross training. Veteran teacher and program director Brenda Nelson will use her personal running experiences to encourage students to set individual and realistic goals for improvement and enjoyment in the sport of running. The LOW Running Bears program will culminate with the local Willie Walleye Day 5K, and will complement a Spring “Run with the Bears” program where students run with the Varsity Bear track team.
Countdown to Fitness – Space Coast Final Mile – Melbourne, FL
The Countdown to Fitness - Space Coast Final Mile is a marathon hosted by the Running Zone Foundation of Melbourne, Florida for all elementary schools in Brevard County. Every elementary school, whether they are a charter, private, or public school, is eligible to participate. More than half of the county’s elementary schools are designated as Title I. Participants will run a marathon in one-mile increments over a period of three months, logging miles and receiving incentives for incremental achievements toward the full 26.2 miles. On the day of The Final Mile, students from all over Brevard County, along with any family members who wish to join them, will finish the marathon together and celebrate with food, music and awards. As a new program, the Space Coast Final Mile aspires to draw 1,000 students to participate in the event while enticing family members to run alongside their marathon runner. The program will focus on good health, fitness, fun, and the satisfaction of setting and achieving a goal while developing lifelong healthy habits.
Wise Kids In Motion – St. Paul, MN
The Wise Kids In Motion program is designed as a nine-week after-school curriculum to reach kids and augment physical education programs in neighborhood schools and is offered to any school or youth centered organization at no cost. It teaches 300 children in kindergarten through sixth grade about goal setting, making smart nutrition decisions, and provides a structured running program to promote long-term health habits. Information packets include talking points to take home to parents as well as games and activities designed to make learning fun. Kids are invited to participate in Twin Cities Kids Marathon Running events held in February, May and October to test their running fitness and abilities to set goals and meet them. The program also provides incentives and giveaways to both students and teachers to help keep them engaged in the program and to celebrate successes. Program director Sandy Unger aims for all Twin Cities children to learn healthy habits and to have fun, concentrating on diverse communities and removing barriers to participation.