It’s the first week of school for many kids in our community – a time to establish new routines and break in those school supplies! For kids at seven Jefferson County schools, new shoes that were purchased to start school are getting broken in a bit more quickly with the renewal of school-sponsored walking and running groups. Several years ago, the school system sponsored a contest to get students excited and motivated to be physically active. “At one of our schools, we ended the contest and the kids kept running”, says Ken Storie, Athletics Director for the Jefferson County Schools. “They saw no reason to stop.” This led to the hiring of a part-time wellness coordinator to support emerging walking and running clubs at six participating schools.
The Jefferson County Public Health Advised Fund at the Community Foundation supported the wellness coordinator with a grant of $15,000, and now individual schools have adopted and are sustaining the running and walking clubs. More than 290 3rd – 5th graders and 40 teachers are voluntarily participating twice a week at Lipscomb, Bryan, Clay, Corner, McAdory and Mt. Olive Elementary Schools.
Speaking about the motivation for funding this program, Dr. Mark Wilson, Health Officer at Jefferson County Department of Health, recently said, “When I saw the preliminary data on the level of participation in these running clubs, I was very excited. If kids can catch the ‘running bug’ at these ages and gain the confidence they need to continue, it can have a big impact on their long-term health and well-being. What I also like is that this initiative has the potential to be replicated all across our community with relative ease and low cost.”
Gus Heard – Hughes, our Director of Initiatives, visited the walking group at Lipscomb Elementary in May and shared this video from a morning walking group: Lipscomb Elementary Walking Group
Now, before the first bell even rings, students and faculty are exercising together and getting ready to hit the classroom ready to focus and learn! Walking clubs are a great example of the many partners who, together, are advancing collaborative approaches to school wellness as part of the Health Action Partnership. Contact Gus Heard-Hughes to learn more about the Jefferson County Public Health Advised Fund or give to the Community Foundation’s funding result that “People can lead healthy lives” to be part of creating a healthier community.
Video credit: Scott Jones, Jones Is Hungry