Morning Mile program gets students, parents and teachers active

September 5, 2019

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It’s a Friday morning at Blosser Lane Elementary School in Willits, California, and more than 100 students are running and walking laps around the basketball court, laughing and having fun. They’re part of a new before-school program called “Morning Mile” sponsored by Adventist Health Howard Memorial.

“Anything to help us get students moving is a good thing. It really warms my heart to see so many kids, staff and community members participating,” says Nancy Runberg, Blosser Lane principal. “The other day I saw kids rushing as the bus pulled up, and they were so excited to get their laps in. Besides the health benefits, it also allows the kids to release all that energy and get them ready to learn. It’s a win for both teachers and students.”

The program was initiated by teacher Tiffany Klee, along with Tina Tyler-O’Shea, senior program specialist with the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency.

Adventist Health Howard Memorial donated funds to get the program started. Jason Wells, hospital president, says, “Childhood obesity is a growing problem, and anything we can do to help address it is a step in the right direction. And this ties perfectly with our mission of inspiring health in our communities. While we love taking care of kids when they’re sick, we would rather keep them healthy and well. Starting healthy habits while they’re young can set them up for a great future and better health outcomes for the community as a whole. We hope more schools get on board, and we will be happy to support them in any way we can.”

It’s not just students who participate in the program. Parents and teachers are having fun and walking too. Six laps around the loop is exactly a mile, and students aim to get more than that. Each lap earns the prize of a straw, to be recorded and tracked for more incentives. Every participant receives a necklace and a charm for every five miles.

Kaiden Oliver is a fifth grader who says he loves running, as he shows off the charms he’s earned around his neck. “I did 15 laps today! Tomorrow, I’ll be even better!”

After he’s done, he encourages his friends to keep going, giving them high-fives along the way.

Kaiden’s mother, Amy Buckingham, says the program has been a blessing for Kaiden. “He has a lot of energy. Now he has an outlet for all that energy, and he’s ready to learn and to pay attention to his studies. As a mom and a nurse, this program excites me. Running and exercise has been proven to offer many health benefits, including strengthening your lungs, relieving stress, improving your immune system and preventing high blood pressure.”

Before the school day starts, the kids hand in their straws to be tallied. By the end of last school year, nearly 200 students had put in their miles. Students, staff and guests had walked almost 1,700 miles.

And the program is growing. This fall, Baechtel Grove Middle School joins Blosser Lane Elementary School in the Morning Mile program.