Mini-Grants from Marathon Kids Support Coaches and Help Runners Go Farther

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Mini-Grants from Marathon Kids Support Coaches and Help Runners Go Farther

By Catherine Morris

Running alongside her students has always been important to the teacher and Marathon Kids Coach Walasse Der. But it wasn’t always possible. Instead of joining her students on the track at their California elementary school, she had to stand beside the track with her iPhone, ready to scan each kid’s ID card as they ran past.

Thanks to a mini-grant from Marathon Kids that Der used this spring to purchase new iPads and tripods, she is now free to run with her students. As a result, she says, “My runners are more confident on the track and in the classroom. There is more chatting and laughter. Their joy is infectious.”

Der is one of several recent recipients of mini-grants provided by Marathon Kids to coaches at schools receiving Title I funds, or schools with at least 75% of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Though Marathon Kids programming is already free, it can be tough for coaches to find extra funds for things like new tablets for scanning runner ID cards, or incentives to boost their students’ motivation to keep pushing toward new milestones.

At the start of 2022, Marathon Kids wanted to find a new way to support its community of schools across the country, and help its runners go even farther. The organization extended the mini-grant opportunity to coaches at schools like Der’s, in hopes that they could use the grants to create more engaging run club experiences for their students.

At the end of January, 22 recipients received Marathon Kids mini-grants ranging from $500 to $1,000. These passionate coaches have used their funds in all sorts of creative ways to enhance their students’ experiences with running. Here are just a few examples of the impact these funds have had on Marathon Kids runners across the country.

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Cindy Miniard, PE Teacher at Crab Orchard Elementary in Crab Orchard, TN

“Getting this grant has created much excitement in our classes and running sessions,” Coach Miniard reports. “We used our grant money to purchase an iPad, stand and Otterbox cover to protect the iPad, and are now able to use the Marathon Kids Connect app daily. Our students are so excited about finally being able to scan their cards and log their own miles with the app!”

Miniard and her fellow Crab Orchard teachers are excited, too. “We will no longer need to use paper logs to submit mileage for students. Using the app is so easy, and it gives the students a sense of ownership of their activity. We are grateful to Marathon Kids for this opportunity.”

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Martin Gow, PE teacher at Carman Elementary in San Juan, TX

Coach Gow purchased two new tablets with his mini-grant, in order to allow more students in Carman Elementary’s running-walking club to scan runner ID cards as their classmates complete each lap.

“This allowed us to start inviting more grade levels to be part of our running club,” Gow says. “Our goal is to train our teachers to use the app as well, to eventually have the whole school become part of the club.”

Toward the same goal of expanding their run club community, the purchase of the tablets has also allowed Carman Elementary to launch Sibling Day, when run club students get to run or walk with their younger siblings. “This was a great experience for them to have their younger siblings outside with them while supervising them,” Gow says. “We are also getting ready have a parent walk, where club members can bring their parents to join them during the running club, with the goal of inviting the whole community to be part of our school.”

For Gow, “the tablets have been a great investment that we can use from now on. We are also planning to use some of the remaining funds to purchase some accessories and rewards, to showcase our top runners and reward them for each marathon completed. We are also purchasing some Marathon Kids banners that will be used every time we have an event, to let the school and community know that we run with Marathon Kids.”

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Thomas Ramos, PE Teacher at De Zavala Elementary in Midland, TX

The motivation to get and stay active can come from many sources, both internal and external. Like many Marathon Kids coaches, Coach Ramos has found that his students challenge themselves to go even farther when they can earn tangible rewards at key milestones.

“The grant has helped so much!” Ramos says. “We were able to purchase tee-shirts for multiple grade levels and students. We also purchased some dog tags that the kids really like as incentives for kids to reach their goal of a full marathon.”

Ramos’s school is also planning to hold a color run for its students, and possibly for the entire community. “Kids get excited to run as they learn more about the healthy benefits it adds to their lives,” he says—“and the chance to earn a Marathon Kids tee-shirt!”

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Sharon Abee, PE Teacher at West Lenoir Elementary in Lenoir, NC

Coach Abee’s students are also highly motivated by rewards. “My students are so excited and working hard for the new incentives that I have purchased with the grant money,” she says. “I bought stress balls, Pop-It balls, shoestrings, Pop-It bracelets, tee-shirts and headbands, and I am also going to purchase another iPad so we can have two scanners.”

Abee believes the Marathon Kids program is life-changing for her students. “Marathon Kids helps students set goals and work hard to achieve them,” she says. “This program builds confidence and character, and teaches children the importance of being honest. Every school should be doing it!!”

June Bennett, PE Teacher at Williams Elementary in Austin, TX

Coach Bennett’s students run Marathon Kids laps every day at school. She uses Marathon Kids Connect to generate a weekly Top-20 list of runners, which she posts in the PE hallway to boost her students’ motivation to keep setting goals and pushing toward them.

Also motivating are the rewards and swag she has been able to purchase with her mini-grant funds. “This PE teacher was able to purchase Evolve water bottles for the top student runners in the school,” she reports, “as well as golden running shoes for the top runners in each grade level.”

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