“I believe the potential for greatness still lies in the hearts of our communities and children. And if given the right encouragement and opportunities, who knows what could happen.” – Daniel McDowell
The Active SWV Kids Run Club program seeks to improve the health outcomes of southern West Virginian youth by empowering them with the opportunities, skills, knowledge, and confidence to be physically active. The central goal of the program is to instill healthy habits in our area’s youth and to get them excited about running and physical activity. Active SWV believes that West Virginian children are the key to the future of both the region and the nation, and that they deserve deserve to live happy, healthy, and productive lives. By transforming West Virginia into a more physically active and healthier community, we improve individual’s lives and reverse the alarming rates of heart disease and diabetes that contribute to the shortened life expediencies in our state.
What is an Active SWV Kids Run Club?
Active SWV Kids Run Clubs are hosted in elementary schools, middle schools, and community groups all across Raleigh Summers, Nicholas, and Fayette counties. This free, volunteer based initiative is designed to help youth participants develop an enjoyment and understanding of exercise while learning healthy habits that extend beyond their time participating in program. Kids Run Clubs are specifically intended to be free and accessible to those who may not have the resources to participate in another organized sport. Any interested child may participate – there is no skill requirement, equipment purchase, or membership fee for the participant or the school involved. Kids Run Clubs go for 6-8 weeks before or after school in the fall and spring seasons, culminating in a ‘Fun Run’ event where the kids, coaches, families, and friends gather for a race-like event to celebrate the season. Active SWV hopes that all participants find joy and confidence with running and physical activity, so that they can continue to be active beyond their time in the Club.
Running is extremely beneficial for kids because it is one of the most accessible sports out there. Aside from running shoes, it doesn’t require any additional equipment and there is also no specific location needed to practice. Not only is running affordable and accessible, but it also promotes a healthy heart, healthy lungs, and strong muscles. By targeting kids with this fun initiative, Active SWV hopes to improve the immediate health of the youth participants while giving them a working knowledge of the benefits of physical activity that they can carry with them through life and maybe even spread to family members.
How does the program work?
Kids Run Clubs are free, volunteer based initiatives that are designed to be flexible and easy to implement within a school or community group. Active SWV helps facilitate elements of the Kids Run Club program and offers support and guidance throughout the season, but volunteer Coaches take the lead running the Club at their school. To start off, volunteer Coaches participate in a coaches training with an Active SWV staff member where they are are equipped with a program manual full of training plans, games, stretches, and safety tips guaranteed to guide them through the whole experience. After Coaches select their practice days and times, the Kids Run Club will train for 6-8 weeks and end with the celebratory Fun Run. Any interested parent, teacher, faculty, or community member can volunteer as a Coach, and no one is expected to have any prior experience coaching or running. All volunteers need to bring is a positive attitude and a desire to help kids in their community get physically active! For more information on the Kids Run Club process, take a look at the Kids Run Club Manual or email [email protected] with questions.
Active SWV conducts a pre and post program survey with Kids Run Club participants to try and assess the benefits of the program on kids and their families. We’ve partnered with the WVU School of Public Health since 2016 to analyze the yearly survey data, and there have been some really amazing results.
Survey data shows that every year since 2016 (when surveying began), participants are meeting physical activity guidelines more days each week then before they started the program! In 2018 specifically, there was a statistically significant increase in this area.
Data also revealed a notable reduction in screen time during the school week, with 25% of participant respondents reducing their screen time from the beginning to the end of the program (2018).
Kids also reported higher levels of confidence in their running ability and physical activity skills like warming up, cooling down, and stretching. Spring 2018 in particular had a statistically significant increase in the confidence levels of kids about their ability to be physically active for 60 mins daily.
In addition, about 25% of participants were able to get a family member to increase their physical activity, showing that the program’s positive impacts aren’t limited to just the kids participating.
In future seasons, we hope to expand upon these results and to better understand the impact of Kids Run Club participation on children and their families.
Support the Program, and Get Involved!
In just four short years, the energy and response generated by the Active SWV Kids Run Program has been nothing short of a phenomenon, involving over 2000 kids and hundreds of volunteers each year. The program began with a pilot club at just one school in 2015. Now, there have been Active SWV Kids Run Clubs at a total of twenty-nine schools and community groups all across Raleigh, Summers, Nicholas, and Fayette Counties.
Not only are the number of Active SWV Kids Run Clubs growing in number, but they are also growing in size. Many Kids Run Clubs have participation numbers that make up over half of eligible aged students at their schools! We believe this demonstrates the strong need for support of the Active SWV Kids Run Club program from teachers, students, families, and the community. It’s a program that students are excited to participate in and that schools are excited to be a part of. Support Active SWV Kids Run Clubs with financial donation here.
You can support Kids Run Clubs in these other ways too!:
- Talk to your child’s school principal, guidance counselor, or PE teacher about starting a Club
- Volunteer as an Active SWV Kids Run Club Coach
- Spread the word about Active SWV Kids Run Clubs
- Talk to your employer about sponsoring an Active SWV Kids Run Club
- Donate to Active SWV Kids Run Clubs
Participating Kids Run Clubs
Some Quotes From our Kids Run Club Coaches
“Run Club has made a huge impact on BRE (Birch River Elementary). Students and adults both benefit from the time spent together outside moving. For me, seeing the joy it brings to my coworkers has been the best part.” – Leigh Ashby, Birch River teacher and coach
“I have loved getting students active with this free program. It gets kids moving even if its only once a week. Several children have decided that they really enjoy running and participating.” – Natasha Cook, Coal City teacher, parent, and coach
“I absolutely love doing run club. Many of our participants do not get outside to play much, and adding this to their week really helps them get active. The kids always love coming!” – Margret Perdue, Coal City
“I have had the joy of doing run club at Fairdale Elementary and starting a run club at Mount Hope Christian Academy. At both school they were great successes. It is a program that I think every school should have, we even did a Fall and Spring session last year because of the intense interest. In most school the spots to be on a sports team are very slim and Run Club allows all children to become active and feel like athletes which completely changes them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen kids playing “Run Club” at recess and leading each other in stretches and activities.” – Heather Arbogast, Mt. Hope Christian teacher and coach