Clay County-based elementary fitness program named Road Runners Club of America’s 2016 Outstanding Youth Program
The Florida Striders Track Club in Orange Park supports more than 50 elementary school Run/Walk Clubs in Northeast Florida, with the first club established in Clay County over 20 years ago. The network of Run/Walk Clubs now includes 22 schools in Clay County.
“Participation-based youth running programs that engage kids early in life have a profound impact on lifetime attitudes toward physical activity and will directly combat the obesity epidemic,” explained Erica Gminski, RRCA Youth Programs Coordinator. “Our goal with Kids Run the Nation is to have a youth running program in every school in the U.S. The Florida Striders Children’s Run/Walk Program is but one example of a successful partnership between the running community and local school systems, and we are excited to support them this year through the Kids Run the Nation Grant Fund and to recognize them as the RRCA’s 2016 Outstanding Youth Program.”
In November, the Florida Striders’ program was named one of 47 Kids Run the Nation grant recipients. Read the RRCA’s news release announcing the grant recipients here.
“It is a great honor to have the Road Runners Club of America recognize the Florida Striders Children's Running Program with this award.” said Carol MacDougall, a physical education teacher at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary, and the Children’s Running Coordinator for the Florida Striders. “It's amazing to me to see how the program has grown over the years and continues to grow. It makes me very happy to see mileage shirts on children when I am out in town and to know that I was involved in them receiving that shirt.”
The school-based programs encourage students to set personal distance goals, which parent volunteers help track. The Florida Striders provide marathon medals to students who have run/walked the distance of a marathon, as well as awards and shirts to celebrate their distance goals at 25- and 50-mile increments. They distributed 5,289 marathon medals during the 2015-2016 school year. The club also hosts five free “fun runs” for students to participate in, and offer start-up assistance for schools that want a run/walk program of their own.
“Sports are important for a healthy lifestyle,” said Stephanie Holeton, a parent at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary and a Run/Walk Club volunteer. “This program is so valuable to our students for so many reasons. For one, the students are able to focus better in class after exercising. Also, it teaches them discipline by letting them set goals and rewarding them when they achieve it. This program introduces students to running who may not be introduced to the sport by another way.”
“I am happy to see the valuable partnership and support that the Florida Striders has invested in our schools over the past two decades recognized on a national scale. They have taught our students lifelong lessons: the importance of physical fitness, and the inherent reward of setting and meeting your own personal goals. I look forward to supporting the health and well-being of our students through our continued partnership, and congratulate the Florida Striders on this award,” said Addison Davis, Clay County’s superintendent of schools.
“I am so pleased to see the Florida Striders’ Children’s Program recognized. For less than $10 per child per year, we can help children’s academic performance, focus, behavior in school, self-esteem, and their physical fitness. I have never found a program that can accomplish so much for so little money per child,” said Bob Boyd, past president of the Florida Striders, and a longtime supporter of the Children’s Run/Walk program.
CORRECTION (Feb. 14): An earlier version of this news release identified the founder and location of the first run/walk club in Clay County as Carol MacDougall at Paterson Elementary in 1998. We have since learned that at least one other run/walk club was founded in the early 1990’s at Lakeside Elementary School by physical education teacher Kim Tracanna-Breault.