DD: How did the Fun Run get started?
EW: Nine years ago the Fun Run started with two parents whose kids are now grown. It was a one-mile loop around the school that people could do up to three times. It was fun, though it wasn’t a big fundraiser. The loop wasn’t great on a hilly run and someone had to be posted in order to watch traffic. We didn’t have access to bathrooms, so the event had to be short. When I took this on myself a few years ago, I tried the Fun Run on Oakledge Park. Additionally I asked area businesses to sponsor the runners’ free shirts. We were also able to turn this into a bigger fundraiser. In past years we’ve had ten shirt sponsors. For $100, we add their logos to the shirts. The sponsors said this was their best advertising deal, so maybe next year we’ll increase the fee. I would like to keep the registration fee down to $5 and keep it accessible. The raffle sales have been up. Another parent, Kate Kenny, helped get raffle prizes, so we had a lot this year. The Fun Run raised $1,700 last week, which isn’t a huge amount, but this is just profit that goes to our Parent-Teacher Organization and school.
DD: What is Mini Milers exactly?
EW: Mini Milers is a Run Vermont program, which an organization that manages the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington. They also created the “Ready, Set, Run Festival,” that is a youth-run race that takes place the Saturday before the marathon. 750 kids run in this event. The purpose of Mini Milers is to involve kids in a ten-week program devoted to the sport of running in a fun, group setting. There are thirty Mini Miler sites throughout the state, mostly in schools, plus an adaptive program. A volunteer leader coordinates and teaches the program, recruits the students. Run Vermont provides a whole leadership manual. We use it as a guide, since getting fifty-five kids together after school, who just want to run, requires us to be flexible. We focus on being a good teammate and sportsmanship. We run three loops: two by Oakledge and one in the Five Sisters Neighborhood. In previously years we started the program in March, but kids were in tears because it was so cold. Now instead we start in April. We also expanded the program from grades 3-5 to K-5.
DD: Who else is involved?
EW: Kyle Darling from SkiRack has helped a lot. For two years, Kyle and I were co-leaders, with the help of outside volunteers. Parents’ help is key, too. In the future, I would like us to partner more with the King Street Center, so that more families can access Mini Milers and attend the Fun Run.
DD: What’s so special about running?
EW: First of all, it’s a lifelong sport. Your can do it by yourself or with a group, and wherever you are. It gets you outside, seeing the world. You can run competitively or not. It’s a good foundation for other sports,
like basketball and soccer. Even if students don’t go for daily runs, they learn what that means and can always do it. There are some kids in the program who go out for runs on their own or with a parent. We encourage them to run, with the goal of twenty-six miles for the program. Students get a tag that I punch holes in for each mile. On Wednesdays we count their miles and they tell what they did on their own. It’s the honor system. So far five students have reached the goal, and I expect ten will in total. We will have a ceremony on Wednesday, June 14 at 2:30pm. Every student will get a medal and certificate.
DD: What are your future plans with running at Champlain Elementary School?
EW: I am going to stick around. Another parent, Heather Chernyshov, will be helping me for the future. For the Fun Run, some people say don’t change a thing. Others say it should be for the whole Burlington community. I go back and forth about keeping it as it is. Sustainability Academy has a partnership with City Market for a 5K community run. Next year I would like to start a committee. We always need more ideas and hands to pitch in. We can do a signup board at Curriculum Night next fall. Anyone who wants to get involved can email me at email@example.com.
DD: Thank you so much! Teaching young people to run on a regular basis is a healthy, lifelong habit. This was my second Fun Run and I loved every minute! What a great event for our school community to come together and celebrate fitness and friends!