This spring, children from McDowell County can become “healthy kids running.”
Founded in 2009, Healthy Kids Running Series is a nationwide community-based program that seeks to combat increasing rates of childhood obesity in the United States. The founder designed a running program “that provides a fun environment and builds self-esteem.” The idea is that the program will continue to encourage kids to adopt a “Get Up and Go” attitude, according to the Website for the national program.
During the Healthy Kids Running Series (HKRS), all the participating children celebrate their success no matter how big or small. “It’s our goal that all runners will make it to the finish line (crawling, walking, skipping, running, jumping — whatever makes them happy). It’s our mission to inspire kids to believe in themselves and to lead a healthy lifestyle, according to the website.
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HKRS has dashed into McDowell County. The very first season in Marion took place last fall and there were 47 children ages 2-13 who turned out and ran during the five-week series, said Loren Dietrich, community coordinator for the Marion program.
“We offer a fun, inclusive hour-long race event that is focused on promoting an active, healthier generation of children,” Dietrich told The McDowell News. “Running supports the values of effort, perseverance, persistence, sportsmanship, independence and grit. Together, these inherent challenges combined with the learned ability to overcome those challenges builds self-esteem and truthfully, that is one of my reasons for starting a local Healthy Kids Running Series. “
The second season in Marion will begin Sunday, April 23, and go through Sunday, May 28. But registration is taking place now. For more information, you can go to the program’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hkrsmarionnc.
The event will be held at Nebo Crossing on Barnes Road. The program lasts five weeks (and each week has a fun theme). All participants receive medals on the final week but only the top finishers in each group receive a trophy on the final week. The top finishers are based on points averaged together for all five weeks.
“On the final week, we have a Parent Mile as well,” Dietrich told The McDowell News. “Last fall, we had six to eight parents run and the children loved cheering on their parents as they ran. And watching the adults run showed the children just how running can be a lifelong sport. We also have all volunteers that help out. Most all were high schoolers last year.”
The HKRS is also more accessible to children who usually don’t participate in team sports like baseball or basketball.
“Not all children are ‘team sports children’,” said Dietrich. “Those that aren’t tend to find activities that are more independent. But young children that still want to be athletically competitive do not have many options around our area. Sports such as tennis, golf and running do not usually begin until the middle school years.
Dietrich added that as a teacher and a mom, she was searching for just such an activity for her 7-year-old son when she found out about HKRS. She also saw the impact it had on other kids.
“I saw first-hand a homeschool student who thrived on the competition, training each week to beat his previous week’s time,” she told The McDowell News. “I saw the fifth-grade student, who ran out of his shoe each week but was determined to make it to the finish line at all costs. I saw the second-grade student who couldn’t run more than a few yards but with the help of many other runners and volunteers, was encouraged all the way to the finish line each week.
“I saw the other second-grade runner who was first every week. And every week, he made it to the finish line and then ran back to the course to run alongside the slower runners and encourage them. And I saw the giggles and laughs and smiles on the preschoolers faces as they zig-zagged down the straight path towards the finish line.”
“I want so badly to see twice as many runners come out this spring and run with us,” Dietrich added.”
For more information, visit the Facebook page or call Loren Dietrich at 828-925-8641.