This summer will be the third year of Run for Fun, which is sponsored by the Springfield-Greene County Park Board.
So far, the kids’ favorite event over two years has been the obstacle course.
They cover about 300 yards and it takes 2½ to four minutes. They run up playground equipment, slide down, run over a park bench, across a bridge and up a slide and down to the finish line.
It’s a workout.
On hot days, me and my fellow volunteer coaches are armed with super soakers to cool them off.
The program is free and open to children ages 6 through 11. It will be held 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Saturday mornings in June and July at Hailey’s Playground at Westport School-Park, 415 S. Golden Ave.
A quarter-mile track is at the site. Occasionally, we run on the track.
The dates for this summer are June 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 and July 7, 14, 21 and 28.
On the final day we have a short workout and a barbecue.
Parents must register their children with the Park Board, with offices at 1923 N. Weller Ave., phone 417-864-1049 or at ParkBoard.org/RunforFun.
Or parents and children simply can show up and register at the pavilion at Hailey’s Playground on one of the Saturday mornings.
We have had as few as four children and as many as 14. For reasons I am not sure of, the majority of the kids have been girls.
I came up with the idea for Run for Fun in early 2016 after listening to Greg Burris, Springfield city manager, speak at my church about the many needs of residents in the city’s northwest side, known as Zone 1.
Greg and I attend Brentwood Christian Church in Springfield
On that day, Greg said the City can’t solve all the problems in Springfield. He was asking for help, specifically, from churches.
Zone 1 has more than its share of poverty and unemployment. Greg had the numbers.
But what I didn’t know is that poverty often comes hand-in-hand with childhood obesity. Kids aren’t eating right and they aren’t exercising.
When I heard that, I knew I could help my community. I am a lifelong runner and a former high school track coach.
I also knew I could count on great friends – my running buddies – to help.
Those volunteer coaches have included a few of my co-workers at the News-Leader: Thomas Gounley, Giacomo Bologna, Will Schmitt and Jackie Rehwald; as well other friends who run, such as Sherry Coker, Joey Pulleyking, Shelby Smith, Lynette and Kevin Cummings, and Jennifer Moore.
In addition, Park Board employees have played a vital role in the program.
Each year, the News-Leader has graciously paid for approximately 30 T-shirts for kids and coaches.
We coaches have had incredible fun working with the kids.
Other events have include the whipped-cream relay; tug-of-war over a sprinkler; bean-bag relay; freeze tag/coaches vs. kids; javelin (it’s foam) toss; and whatever else I come up with.
Whatever we do, it has to be fun.
I look forward to Year No. 3!