Successful Active SWV Kids Run Club at Energy Express Mount Hope

The Mount Hope Energy Express Kids Run Club poses for a photo after their Fun Run event. 

      The first ever Active Southern West Virginia (Active SWV) Kids Run Club at the Mount Hope Energy Express site came to a successful finish last week. The Mount Hope Energy Express Kids Run Club was held biweekly in conjunction with the eight-week WVU Extension Energy Express program. The Kids Run Club consisted of forty energetic elementary school students. AmeriCorps Energy Express Mentors completed an in-depth training from Active SWV that taught them how to lead a safe and effective Kids Run Club Program. Mentors served as Run Club Coaches to teach their mentees about the joy and benefits of physical activity. All Active SWV Kids Run Clubs are unique, and can be tailored to fit the available space, equipment, and goals of each location. The Mount Hope Energy Kids Run Club focused on non-competitive game play, rather than traditional lap running. During practices, participants played a variety of running intensive games or completed obstacle courses that utilized exercise equipment. The excitement and enthusiasm for physical activity at the Mount Hope Energy Express site was contagious. In the words of one participant, “it just feels so good to run!”

      The Mount Hope Energy Express Kids Run Club culminated in a heartwarming Fun Run event for participants and their family members. Children practiced warm ups together, then were divided into two groups based upon age. Each group completed an age appropriate fitness circuit around the school grounds, and cheered on the other group while they took turns having their running events. Energy Express Mentors were stationed around the course to encourage participants and lead them in jumping jacks, cross crawls, footwork ladders, and star jumps. Participants were very engaged and excited during the Fun Run. Runners who were hesitant to participate in the beginning of the program ran multiple laps through the fitness circuit with confidence and big smiles. The event was non-competitive. Participants ran laps at their own paces and started at different times, eliminating comparison between participants. After cool-down exercises, the Fun Run ended with an award ceremony, led by Alma Logan, Energy Express site supervisor, who presented each participant with a medal and certificate from Active SWV in honor of their successful participation in the Kids Run Club Program. Logan was very supportive of the Active SWV Kids Run Club Program for the Energy Express site throughout the entirety of the program. 

      Also in attendance to the event was Kelsey Lauback, WVU Extension Agent, who held a Rethink Your Drink booth to teach children about the harms of sugary drinks and how to make healthy choices.

     Fun Runs are just one component of the Active SWV Kids Run Club program that celebrates and supports children’s efforts to be physically active. The Active SWV Kids Run Program is designed to help kids develop an enjoyment and understanding of exercise, while learning healthy habits that extend beyond the program. Active SWV Kids Run Clubs are held in schools across Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Summers Counties and last spring had 126 volunteer coaches and 765 participants. Active SWV Kids Run Club participants learn the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle, team building, and techniques for being a healthy runner. There is no cost for children to participate in the program, and any interested child at a participating school may join, regardless of skill level. Running, specifically, is extremely beneficial for kids because it is one of the most accessible sports. It doesn’t require equipment, aside from running shoes, and there is no specific location needed to practice–kids can run anywhere there is open space. Not only is running affordable, but it also promotes a healthy heart, healthy lungs, and strong muscles. Through targeting youth with this fun initiative, Active SWV hopes to not only improve the immediate health of the participants, but also instill knowledge, awareness, and ability in West Virginia’s youth.

      Active SWV started partnering with the WVU Extension Energy Express last summer at the pilot Beards Fork SALS site. The collaboration of Active SWV and the WVU Extension Energy Express program has proven fruitful, and provides increased opportunities for physical activity for children living in rural and low-income communities of the state that participate in this summer program.

Run Club participants enjoy an obstacle course during practice time.

The Active SW Mount Hope Energy Express Run Club learning some static stretches as a part of a cool-down routine during practice.

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