Kids Run Arkansas celebrating 10 years

by John Patton

Friday, April 27, will be circled on calendars all over the 501 again this year as parents get their kids ready for one of Conway’s most popular running events.

Under the guidance of Mallory Lefler, fitness coordinator for the Conway Regional Health & Fitness Center, Kids Run Arkansas® will celebrate its 10th anniversary at 6 p.m. that day. Due to construction at Laurel Park, Kids Run will begin and end in the south parking lot of the fitness center, near the new Tucker Creek Trail entrance, and will include some of the trail. 

The event gets larger each year as more parents decide to join in. “With this being year 10, it’s going to be even more exciting,” said Lefler.

“I’m hoping to give more scholarships to the local schools and I am expecting attendance to continue to grow from last year. As always, we are promoting fun, healthy activities for the whole family.”

Last year, nearly 1,200 runners participated from 45 different schools across Arkansas and $8,000 in scholarships was awarded to physical education programs. Kids Run Arkansas is open to kids of all ages. 

The health and fitness center recently announced that Groovy Smiles Pediatric Dentistry is the title sponsor again this year. 

The event offers fun for the entire family, including face painting, games and more, leading up to the 1-mile and 3-mile run/walk. While it is a running event, there is no chipped timing as the event strives to promote fun and fitness for youth and families.

“It’s just a fun event and a great way to be a part of the community,” said Matt Mallett, a parent at St. Joseph School. “We’ve participated for a number of years. It’s a really fun event, a way to get them out running and being active. That’s always a challenge now-a-days.” He credits Kids Run for encouraging his two oldest children, Caleb and Ashleigh, who are now running in cross country events. “That was their introduction to running. We look forward to it every year. Mallory and the rest of the crew make it fun for the kids.”

St. Joseph has been the top participating school the last eight years, and PE Teacher Karen Vandivere says they are anxious to defend their title.

Over the years, funds from Kids Run Arkansas have purchased soccer nets and hockey goals, all sorts of sports balls, a volleyball set and other items for the PE program at St. Joseph. The most unusual equipment may be a parachute that the students play under and run with during PE. 

“We started doing it and won the first year and now whole families like to participate, moms and dads, older brothers and sisters,” said Vandivere. “It’s mainly just being with their families and friends, but some of them run with their friends from other schools.”

Woodrow Cummins Elementary School may have something to say about a St. Joseph victory this year.

“We always have a great number of kids that come out and run. We are very grateful for Kids Run Arkansas, not only does it get our families out there running but also for the financial return for the PE programs,” said Sarah Catherine Orahood, a PE teacher and sponsor of the running club at Woodrow Cummins Elementary.

Last year, Woodrow Cummins was able to purchase pedometers for the PE students along with balls and jump ropes.

About 200 students from the school participated in Kids Run last year and brought their families. “The kids like it because they get to run and they get to eat and enjoy the other post-race activities. Food is always a good thing to bring families out after school hours,” she said.  

Smoothie King smoothies and snack items are always on the menu at the Kids Run event.

Organizing and conducting activities for more than 1,000 people requires numerous volunteers and all are welcome. “In addition to our own employees, I want to thank the volunteers from UCA, Conway High School students and the Conway Running Club who monitor the course,” said Lefler. “They are here annually but we are open to others who want to help.” Volunteers should contact Lefler.

For more information, contact Lefler at 501.450.9292, ext. 309, or [email protected] .