Suzette Amelung and the Marathon Kids of Milan Middle and High Schools, are an inspiration to all of us here at Marathon Kids HQ. Coach Suzette has been teaching special education for the past 10 years, and although it’s Suzette’s first year coaching a Marathon Kids running club, the impact it has had on her students and school community is already noticeable.
After hearing about Marathon Kids through Fuel Up to Play 60, Coach Suzette began her running club journey with 13 of her students. When asked what drew her to Marathon Kids she said, “The slower pace. You don’t have to be athletic to participate, and the average person can do it. Plus it’s easy to incorporate with all students!”
It’s not just Suzette’s students who inspired her to take this journey, though. Her 4-year old son with down syndrome motivates her to create opportunities that are inclusive to him and others like him. And that’s just what Coach Suzette’s running club does.
Her runners meet at least twice a week and, “They enjoy seeing themselves meet their goals, and following their progress,” says Suzette. She’s also noticed that her runners seem to really enjoy the relationship building process, “Friendships are growing even outside of the run club sessions. Now, when they see each other in the hall, or in another class they feel more comfortable talking to one another.”
Not all of her runners have disabilities though, and she says her running club has, “Helped students who do not have disabilities see that those with disabilities are capable of doing many things when given the chance or opportunity.” Her students with disabilities have also been more engaged, and have even started running at home, “The club has inspired the students to be more active at home. Numerous students often report, ‘Guess what? I ran 2 miles at home,’ or ‘I ran around my house five times!’ A few of the runners also participated in a 5K to benefit Special Olympics. They all placed in the top 3 of their age and ability divisions! They were proud of themselves!”
One student in particular, is very proud to be a part of a team. According to Coach Suzette, he’s so proud to be a part of Marathon Kids, it’s given him a sense of independence to achieve his goals alongside his peers. It’s not just the independence they’ve gained that her students like most about Marathon Kids. Her students also like the competition amongst each other.
With her runners healthy habits extending outside of school time, it’s no surprise that others in her community taken steps to live healthier lifestyles. Suzette’s co-Coaches have become much more active during run club and outside of school. “It’s been a big change,” she says. Suzette has taken the big change home with her, too. She is signing up her family to participate in Marathon Kids at Home – including her family that lives out of state! “Being active together, even while not being together, will make us closer and healthier.”
All of the positive changes in her students, and her community are what lead Coach Suzette to say, “Marathon Kids has been a blessing to our school! Thank you for the opportunity to have a Marathon Kids Club! I hope to have MK again next year, and to make it even better!”