With parks and playgrounds closed indefinitely, local sports leagues sidelined and kids of all ages unable to even play pickup games with their neighborhood friends, inactivity may be an issue for children everywhere the coronavirus pandemic has touched.
Now more than ever, we need exercise. We need a reason to stretch our limbs and safely get outside.
Healthy Kids Running Series was founded 11 years ago on the principle of motivating kids ages 2 to 14 to lead a healthy and active lifestyle through running. And despite the hurdles COVID-19 put in front of it, the Series will go on this month.
Beginning on Friday, April 17, Healthy Kids Running Series will convert its outdoor, five-week spring series into a virtual series at its website, HealthyKidsRunningSeries.org, and on social media channels, like Facebook.
“As families navigate through this new norm of social distancing, we want to encourage kids to lead an active, healthy lifestyle,” said Meridith Daniel, one of the Mullica Hill/Mantua Coordinators of Healthy Kids Running Series.
“Whether it’s running in their yard or around the block, we want kids to continue to be active while avoiding potential contact with the COVID-19.”
The national organization, based in Thornton, Pennsylvania, had to not only be creative in working through the constantly changing news and restrictions that came as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but they also had to act quickly. The spring series was scheduled less than a month after businesses across the region were shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Healthy Kids Running Series set up two advisory boards and quickly went to work to keep the series alive in a new, enjoyable experience for participants. And perhaps with more people shuttered indoors and looking for activity, it will result in high participation, despite the parameters.
“First and foremost one of our values has always been family, so considering the amount of family time everyone is experiencing, this is an awesome way to get everybody outside, not just the kids but getting parents outside as well, everyone running together,” said Marina Morton, a Northeast program manager at Healthy Kids Running Series.
And as Morton went on to point out, running is one of the few sports that kids of all ages can continue to participate in during isolation time. As long as you have an open space (or treadmill) and you can keep a healthy distance from people, you can run.
“It’s something you can do anywhere, in the backyard, in the driveway, around the neighborhood,” Morton said. “So it’s flexible and I think it unites the whole family to participate, which is pretty awesome.”
The spring series will kick off virtually Friday, with kids running on a course of their choosing. When the current COVID-19 isolation period is over, the kids will be invited to a Medal and T-Shirt Pickup event.
The Mullica Hill and Mantua communities are among some 300 across the country that have participated in the series that impacts 60,000 youth runners.
“Our races are always kid-focused, with the ultimate goal of teaching children how to be active and healthy while creating meaningful relationships within our community,” Daniel said. “This is a unique opportunity to be connected and engaged with participants while separate.”
Registration for the virtual five-week series is $35. For more information, check out the organization’s website: HealthyKidsRunningSeries.org.
“When new parameters were put in place limiting interaction for our participants, and with more families relying on technology, we felt it was in our best interest to keep our kids engaged and offer this virtual series,” said Jeff Long, founder of Healthy Kids Running.
“Through our virtual Series, we teach kids effort, perseverance, persistence, sportsmanship, independence and grit. We will show kids and their parents how to be active while staying at home.”