On any given school day this spring, 150 kids gathered before classes just outside Washington Elementary.
Some of them walked, some of them ran, but they shared a goal of being physically active.
“Basically, we asked the kids to play an extra 30 minutes a day and watch 30 minutes less of TV a day,” said Chris Cook, who works for the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation and serves as race director for the upcoming Heart & Sole event on June 12.
This “30/30 project” effort started in 2009 at Broadwater Elementary after St. Vincent Healthcare partnered with Kohl’s department store and received a grant from the Kohl’s Cares for Kids on the Move program.
Kohl’s Cares for Kids includes a merchandise program featuring $5 books and plush toys where 100 percent of net profits go toward supporting hospital partnerships. Through 2008, Kohl’s has raised more than $126 million through the program.
Through Kohl’s Cares for Kids on the Move last year, fourth- and sixth-graders at Broadwater Elementary received pedometers to track their successes. The kids, who were taught more about the benefits of physical activity, were also encouraged to drink more water and less soda.
At the end of the school year, the kids and their families all had the opportunity to participate in the annual St. Vincent Healthcare Heart & Sole Run.
Thanks to Cook, principal Karen Ziegler and physical education teacher Justin King, the program has expanded to include Washington Elementary.
Ziegler said many of the kids would have breakfast at the school and walk the grounds before classes anyway.
“So I just thought, ‘Let’s get the whole school on board,’ ” she said. “Our teachers get out there, too. It really helps get the brain started in the morning.”
At the end of March, Ziegler said the incentive to walk became participation in this year’s Heart & Sole Run. When it rained, the kids would walk with umbrellas. If the weather was really bad, they would hoof it through the halls of the school.
“The kids do laps around the baseball field, and eight laps is a mile,” Ziegler said. “We put a tally mark on their hands as they finish each lap.
“In 20 minutes, some of these kids can do eight or even 12 laps.”
Ziegler commends Cook and King for their avid participation.
“Chris (Cook) is out there all the time cheering them on,” she said. “He told me once some of the kids might look grumpy when they start walking, but they all have smiles on their faces when they get done.”