Local organizations join forces in running down childhood obesity

By Kirsten Le Roux
Special to The SUN

Photo courtesy Trent Bona GECKO (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors) is joining forces with Kids Running America, Archuleta School District and the Pagosa Springs Youth Center to motivate and engage kids to eat healthy while completing a marathon, in a program called the Pagosa Kids Marathon Project.

Photo courtesy Trent Bona
GECKO (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors) is joining forces with Kids Running America, Archuleta School District and the Pagosa Springs Youth Center to motivate and engage kids to eat healthy while completing a marathon, in a program called the Pagosa Kids Marathon Project.

Two local nonprofits that work with kids have partnered with Colorado nonprofit Kids Running America (KRA) to motivate and engage kids in eating healthy while completing a marathon, in a program called Pagosa Kids Marathon Project.

KRA, a nationally recognized organization empowering children to run an incremental marathon,  Pagosa Springs Youth Center and GECKO (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors) are working together to improve the physical activity and nutritional education Pagosa Springs school-aged children are receiving. The partnership will offer them an integrated approach to running and healthy eating adventures.

“Our marathon program is a wonderful opportunity for young people to increase their physical activity level, improve their overall health and experience their own personal power,” says Kerry Vargo, KRA executive director.

KRA is an incremental running program designed for kids to train for the 26.2-mile marathon distance over a given time frame, finishing their final distance at a GECKO event. KRA is dedicated to reducing the epidemic of childhood obesity and has reached over 11,700 kids, teaching them that running and exercise are a great way to live a healthy life.

In Pagosa Springs, the program will be presented to the elementary and middle school teachers this week and flyers will go home to parents explaining the opportunity.

The program will be launched officially at GECKO’s Mountain Chile Cha Cha event on Sept. 27 at the 1-mile Kid’s Free Fun Run, and then weekly miles will be earned during school in organized runs or at the Pagosa Springs Youth Center after school on Fridays.

Children are given access to a fun and interactive online portal that tracks their mileage and gives them nutritional information, as well as celebrating milestones with incentives along the way. The program will run for 10 weeks and concludes on Dec. 6 with the final 1-3 miles to be completed at GECKO’s Sweaty Santa running event.

Joanne Irons, coordinator for the school district and the youth center, commented on the new program, saying, “It’s always exciting when we partner to help make children’s lives better in our community and can watch the progress they make each week. This collaborative effort fits perfectly with taking care of the whole child and engaging in a healthy life and spending it outdoors.”

For more information on the program, go to www.kidsrunningamerica.org or contact Kirsten Le Roux, GECKO, at info@joingecko.org or Joanne Irons, Pagosa Springs Youth Center and Archuleta School district, at 946-7545.

This story was posted on September 16, 2014.