Chicago Run Helps Schools Go for the Gold!

June 25, 2013

Chicago Run, a nonprofit organization promoting health and wellness among Chicago students through running programs, was one of the dedicated community partners that contributed to the remarkable success of the Go for the Gold campaign.

by Liz Stalfort, HSC intern

When Healthy Schools Campaign and CPS launched the Go for the Gold campaign, we knew schools would face a number of challenges in order to achieve certification through the HealthierUS School Challenge. One of these major challenges that we found in all kinds of schools and communities was the lack of physical education and activity in schools. Every school has its own set of barriers when it comes to implementing PE and physical activity, so we sought the help of some amazing community organizations to ensure the program’s success.

As the sun sets on the Go for the Gold campaign and the next chapter in creating a healthier Chicago begins, we wanted to to take a moment to reflect on the incredible partners that helped Chicago schools become healthier places. Chicago Run, a nonprofit organization promoting health and wellness among Chicago students through running programs, was one of these dedicated community partners. Since the foundation of their partnership with CPS, their involvement has encompassed helping schools fulfill their HealthierUS School Challenge requirements through our Go For the Gold initiative in a variety of ways. Their partnership began when CPS took notice of Chicago Run helping a few schools meet their physical activity requirements and asked them to provide support for additional schools struggling to meet their requirements.

Chicago Run has been and continues to be an essential partner in helping many schools design and implement action plans to reach their Go For the Gold criteria. This past spring, they became involved with six schools: Cooper, Evergreen, Jungman, Kanoon, Melody, and Seward, all of whom have submitted their HealthierUS School Challenge applications for the Gold or Gold with Distinction recognition.

Chicago Run was one of many organizations that came together to work tirelessly towards helping schools meet their goals. As Chicago Run Outreach Coordinator Daniel Chavez writes: “I was able to cultivate relationships across multiple organizations, CPS, Healthy Schools Campaign, CLOCC, and many more schools throughout the city, and I also had the opportunity to contribute my thoughts and experiences for the betterment of specific initiatives throughout the city. For each of these experiences, I am extremely grateful.”

When asked about one of Chicago Run’s biggest success stories in their partnership with Go For the Gold, Program Director Alex Landberg spoke of their relationship with Kanoon Magnet School. Immediately after its creation, the Kanoon wellness team, made up of members from the Chicago Run staff, the administration and the school staff, began implementing physical activity and healthy eating into all aspects of the school. With the help of an enthusiastic school staff, Chicago Run then implemented a running program “from scratch” that was instantly successful.

Walking paths now wind around and within the school, serving as an outlet for students and teachers during recess or class time. Kanoon’s healthy trivia game supports both physical activity and building knowledge surrounding healthy food. Each day a new question is presented during morning announcements based on the food that will be served in the cafeteria for lunch. The students submit their answers on Friday and the student with the most correct answers is rewarded with an extra recess. These developments, in addition to many others, are changing the students’ outlook on exercise and healthy eating, prompting them to develop habits and behaviors that support a healthier lifestyle.

Chicago Run works with parents to communicate ways students can stay healthy and active during the summer when PE, recess and school fitness activities aren’t offered. Landberg says he works with parents who think exercise is a big time commitment that must take place in an expansive park or a gym; neither of these is true, Landberg says, as he repeats that the best exercise is “simple and easy.” A child does not need anything fancy to have fun and stay healthy. Doing jumping jacks or jumping rope during each commercial break for an hour would add up to 15 minutes of exercise!

Changing a generation’s perception on exercise and healthy eating starts with children and within the schools. Partnering with CPS and Go For the Gold, Chicago Run is helping CPS students make exercise a part of their daily lives in ways that are fun and empowering. These dedicated Chicago Run team members are working hard to remove the stereotype that you can only participate in athletics if you are the best. Everyone can participate and feel good about themselves.

“I wish you all nothing but the best in the continued work of helping better the lives of the students and individuals of this city,” Chavez writes. “You can affect the life of one person and really make a change.

We thank Chicago Run for their dedication and partnership in making Go for the Gold a great success, and for all they do to make Chicago’s schools and students healthier. To find out more about how your school can be a part of Chicago Run, visit ChicagoRun.org, and check back here for more information about the successes of the Go for the Gold Campaign and what’s next in creating healthy schools for Chicago’s students.