Children at one local elementary school have banded together to support the Clevelanders who will be running more than 1,000 miles over eight days to support a community that was impacted by a tragic event.
The Run Now Relay will begin on April 12 when 26 runners leave from Lee University to make the trek all the way to Boston, an effort inspired by the April 15, 2013, bombing at the Boston Marathon, which claimed the lives of three of the event’s attendees and injured many others.
The runners, accompanied by vehicles as a safety precaution, will take turns running all the way to Boston — all with the goal of showing support for bombing victims and raising money for Boston charities.
Hopewell Elementary School has joined those runners in their fundraising efforts.
Physical education teacher Robin McChesney said the school had been looking for ways to promote fitness among students and give back to someone else at the same time during the school’s annual “Hope Well Week.”
She said her husband was set to be a driver for the relay, so she posed the idea to her colleagues at the school. It grew from there.
“We thought, ‘What a wonderful way to support what those adults in the community are doing,’” McChesney said. “When you can take the children and connect them to the community, that’s a good thing.”
Children at the school began collecting money for the effort this past week by taking pocket change they collected on their own to class with them each day. The bags of change from all the classrooms will be added together, and the school will make a donation to Run Now.
One day late last week, a group of children enthusiastically showed off the bags of change that had been collected that day.
They didn’t know exactly who the money would be helping, but their teachers had told them the money will be going to help children in Boston who are just like them but are facing certain challenges in their lives.
The runners in the Run Now Relay have been raising money for two Boston charities that help disadvantaged children stay fit and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being involved with sports — Dream Big and the One Step Ahead Foundation.
Dream Big helps girls who are homeless or living in low-income households receive sports equipment and opportunities to play.
The One Step Ahead Foundation helps boys and girls with physical disabilities take part in activities that range from downhill skiing to swimming to help them gain confidence in their personal abilities.
Matt Ryerson, one of the run’s organizers, said the goal is to raise $50,000 to be split between those charities.
Though it does cost a lot of money to get 26 runners and their drivers from Point A to Point B over a thousand miles away, Ryerson said that none of the money that is being raised now will go toward travel expenses like gas, food or lodging.
Because of several local companies, the runners have been able to keep costs for travel and supplies as low as possible.
For example, Don Ledford Automotive is lending the runners four SUVs for the trip, and the local Coca-Cola plant has donated bottled water and sports drinks to keep the runners hydrated.
Ryerson said the runners themselves have each contributed money to cover the trip’s cost so that any money raised will go straight to the children of Boston.
“If these kids raise $20, this $20 will go straight to the charities,” Ryerson said.
Unbeknownst to him, McChesney said Friday afternoon that the students had raised an estimated $500 so far. However, the final amount could be higher than that because the school’s fundraising efforts continued through Monday. The final fundraising total has not yet been determined.
In addition to raising money, the children will be spending their time in physical education class taking part in Run Now Relay-themed activities while the runners are running.
Keeping track of the route on a map outside the gym with information from the runners’ online updates from the road, teachers will let students know where the runners are each day. Each day of the run, the children will take part in themed activities related to the locations on the map.
When the runners reach Knoxville, the home of the University of Tennessee’s football team, the children will play a game involving football. When runners reach Bristol, the home of the Bristol Motor Speedway, the children will run in a speedy race of their own.
“We were able to connect the activities to where runners will be,” McChesney said. “It makes the children excited.”
She said that will help keep the children’s minds on the Run Now Relay and how the money they raised will soon be making its way to the children of Boston.
McChesney said she also liked the idea of keeping track of the runners because it would make her students aware of what grown-ups in Cleveland were doing to help the community, and the runners make good role models for them in that regard.
“We are proud of our community,” McChesney said.
Ryerson said he and the runners were proud of the community for a different reason — because its residents have shown an “overwhelming” amount of support for the Run Now Relay.
Though the goal is to help the community that was impacted by the Boston Marathon bombing, Ryerson said he has not met a single person in Cleveland who knows one of its victims. He said it’s another case of “The City With Spirit” living up to its motto.
“This community doesn’t have to know somebody to serve somebody,” Ryerson said. “The people of Cleveland are just so gracious and supportive.”
The Run Now Relay has not yet begun its official fundraising campaign, but he said people have already donated in excess of $12,000. At the rate things have been going, he said it may be possible for the group to meet — or even surpass — its $50,000 goal.
Ryerson said he was especially impressed by the fact that children of Hopewell Elementary have gotten involved in the fundraising effort.
“There’s nothing more exciting than to see children serving other people,” Ryerson said.
For more information about the relay, visit www.runnowrelay.org.