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Elementary students running for peace

Staff Writer

“A moment’s peace can and shall save the world,” Sri Chinmoy, founder of the Peace Run.

Each year since 1987, runners from all over the world have come together to carry a torch for peace across the United States and over 140 other countries.

This year, the peace runners’ path crossed directly through the heart of Pagosa Springs. The team, comprised of runners from nine different countries, stopped to visit with elementary students, local businesses and Pagosa Mountain Morning Rotary Club members May 28.

“The Peace Run is a global torch relay that symbolizes humanity’s universal aspiration for a more harmonious world,” states a brochure about the project.

The philosophy behind the Peace Run is that everyone has the opportunity to hold the torch and to carry it one foot, or many miles, further towards peace.

“All it takes is your commitment to take a step for world peace,” the organization states.

Since its inception, the torch has passed through the hands of world leaders including Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and into the hands of everyday people, including Pagosa’s youth. The belief that everyone has the power to bring peace, no matter who they are, is at the core of the Peace Run’s foundation.

Mayor Don Volger turned out for the event at the elementary school last Wednesday, reading a proclamation declaring Peace Run Day in Pagosa Springs and honoring the runners and their mission.

Volger took time between several “Whereas” phrases of the proclamation to explain what he was saying to the young listeners.

Roughly 200 elementary school students witnessed the mayor take hold of the torch and be presented with a certificate of appreciation during the morning ceremony.

The runners and mayor spent time with the elementary students talking about what peace is, how to find peace in their own hearts and taking a lap outside with the torch.

Part of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run mission is to support a culture of respect and tolerance towards others while boosting self-esteem and fostering friendship — especially among children.

“We can create peace by deciding that we will always try to solve problems without violence,” the organization teaches.

Some of the steps the runners help coach students through include: “Stop before you hurt yourself or someone else. Take a deep breath and calm down. Meet with a teacher when both sides are ready … [and] Lead by example, your friends and family will then notice the ways you are creating peace.”

The Peace Run strives to include everyone, focusing on different methods of expression like music and art, besides athleticism.

This year’s team captain, Arpan DeAngelo from New York, said the project is not simply about running, it is instead about “raising awareness in the heart of America.”

Elementary principal Kate Lister spoke at length with the captain about the school’s implementation of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the active and hands-on learning processes implemented and how the Peace Run’s teachings were directly in line with the school’s mission.

After spending the morning with Pagosa students, this year’s team of runners set off once again, with their next stops being Durango and Bluff, Utah, then onward to Tijuana, Mexico.

The team will continue running until the middle of August, making many stops along the 10,000 mile route that will take four months to complete. The torch will pass through several thousand more hands along the way.

To end with the sentiments of founder Chinmoy, “May the flames of peace-torch kindle and awaken each and every world-citizen.”

shanti.johnson@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on June 5, 2014.