26 Days of Healthy Choices: Joyner Elementary’s Marathon
Written by Fraley Marshall, Joyner Elementary
Editor’s Note: Joyner Elementary School earned a Silver Award for 2013 AHA Brains and Bodies Awards program.
What is Joyner Elementary’s recipe for a Healthy Choice Marathon? Twenty-six days of healthy choices, plus six weeks of training through a PTA-led “running club,” topped off with a 5K road race.
For 26 days the entire Joyner campus—teachers, students, and staff—are encouraged to participate in a marathon of reading, eating right and getting plenty of exercise. (This flier was sent home to families.) Each day during the marathon, students are encouraged to read 20 minutes a day, eat a healthy food or snack, and be physically active for at least 20 minutes. Joyner has hosted its Healthy Choice Marathon for that last four years. It fosters a sense of community that is contagious—evidenced by its growth each year.
We kick-off the event each year with a school-wide assembly featuring Carolina RailHawks players, step teams, cheerleaders and jump rope performers. We track participation daily through a tally sheet that the school’s Wellness Committee (made up of parent volunteers) provides to each classroom.
In past years, we concluded the event on the 26th day with a health fair and family picnic. Community businesses and non-profits hosted tables to help educate Joyner’s families about health issues and community resources. Students, teachers, staff and families then finished the marathon by running a final symbolic lap together and enjoying an evening picnic.
This school year, we replaced the picnic with a 5K race. Parent volunteers also created a 6-week running club to help students train for the race and accomplish their goal—whether walking, running, or achieving a “personal best” time. The running club took place on Thursdays after school from 3:00-4:00 pm. Parents led groups of students onto a nearby greenway to run “just a bit further” each week to help students prepare for the race. Students learned how to push themselves as parents lined the “course” to cheer them on.
This year, 250 kids and 25 to 30 parent volunteers participated in the running club every week, and almost 650 participated in the 5K. It was thrilling to see teachers running alongside students, and parents and staff cheering kids through the finish line. Students who thought they could never run a lap were completing a three-mile race with enormous smiles and proud spirits. At Joyner, our motto is “We are a family”—a motto that was clearly embodied on race day as everyone came together to celebrate individual accomplishments no matter how seemingly big or small.
The running club created a core community of parents, students and the school that endured long after the 5k race. The new friendships, healthy habits, and school spirit forged during the Healthy Choice Marathon strengthened our commitment to each other and to our Joyner family.