Children ran around, burned off calories and perhaps began establishing some lifelong healthy habits at the Healthy Kids Running Series kickoff event at the West Bank Bridge Park in Luling, and results already indicate the event has become a hit. Just ask the participants.
“It was a great experience. I had a lot of fun and everyone there had a positive attitude,” said Ashlyn Rogers, a 9-year-old student at Lakewood Elementary. “I can’t wait until the next race.”
Her younger sister, Kadence, concurred.
“I run fast at the race and it was fun,” said the 5-year-old Mimosa Park Elementary student. “I like to celebrate after the race with a snowball.”
Nearly 100 more children are registered to participate than last year in the event’s second spring being held in St. Charles Parish, with 179 children in all signed up for the season.
The program, which was originally established in Pennsylvania in 2009, partnered with St. Charles Parish Parks and Recreation to offer the event to a broader audience. Last year’s Healthy Kids debut in St. Charles Parish marked the first time the event had been held anywhere in Louisiana.
“The program was designed to motivate kids to be healthy and active and provide a fun environment to improve their self-esteem,” said St. Charles Parish Parks and Recreation Director Duane Foret. “(Healthy Kids creators) thought this series would encourage kids to adopt a get up and go attitude.
“It fits our mission statement, to provide quality recreation programs, activities, parks, and facilities that allow all residents of St. Charles Parish to enhance their quality of life”
The series offers age appropriate running events, including the 50-yard dash and quarter mile, half mile and one mile runs. Participants compete each week of the series for a chance to earn points. At the end of the series, the top points earners among boys and girls in each age division receives a trophy.
“It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you run, all participants receive a medal and gift bag for their achievements,” Foret said. “It’s not a real competitive environment. Parents can bring their kids out to the park and everyone gets to run.”
The five age groups for the run are pre-K, kindergarten and first grade, second and third grades, fourth and fifth grades and middle school.
Foret said that while many youths that adopt many sports see an end to that part of their lives when their high school days are over, the running series promotes an athletic venture that can stay with them forever.
“This is something you can have for the rest of your life,” he said. “The healthy lifestyle, the active lifestyle, you can take with you beyond your high school years.”
He said the first day of events can always present a challenge.
“It’s not unlike the first game in baseball or football,” Foret said. “Registration in and of itself can be a little cumbersome. But race two, three, four … it becomes a fine-tuned machine. And on a Sunday, it gets these kids out of the house and active. A lot of the kids were on the fitness equipment before the race, working out.”
Walk-up registration before each event is available. The dates for each remaining race are April 23, April 30 and May 7. Each race begins at 5 p.m.