Smiles, Support & Success

Get Up & Go! Successful Healthy Kids Running Series grows to 104 youth registered in Clifton; parent mile run draws 18

CLIFTON – With the slogan “Get up and Go!” area youth Got up and Went, giving their all in the Healthy Kids Running Series at the Clifton Park former football field.

Held each Sunday for the past five weeks, the series organized by Renee Kettler is designed to stimulate youth to run as a form of exercise and to learn to enjoy the activity. And the event also turns out to be all about smiles, support and success.

“WOW! What a series. Healthy Kids Running Series in Clifton did not disappoint this fall,” Kettler said. “My goals for the series were met and in many ways exceeded. This fall we had 104 registered participants, a 27 percent increase from the spring. Additionally, we had 28 sponsors to our series, an increase from the spring as well.”

Smiles, for the love of physical activity, smiles for just getting to the finish line, or smiles when seeing the proud parent waiting with a drink; support from friends, family and fellow runners; and success for having improved a personal record, for achieving something that seemed unattainable, for winning a medal, for sticking to the program and not giving up.

Besides the usual support of family and friends, the finale last Sunday brought medals, trophies rock painting and free hotdogs to the game. This series saw a few new features such as the spectacular blue finish line arch, music each week, recognition of additional places in each division and the parent mile on week five.

The HKRS helps youth learn how to run and to learn to love the physical activity, develop friendships, and include the competitive element. One of the program’s character building slogans is “Run when you can. Walk if you have to. Crawl if you must. Just never give up.”

“I was told on a number of occasions the energy was great and fun for the kids,” Kettler said. “What a compliment.”

As she awarded medals to each runner at the finish, Kettler looked each child in the eye and sincerely told them how proud she was of their achievements.

It is easy to pick out the natural born runners, but the perseverance of those less gifted with the running gene was impressive to see. And those that ran each week, could accumulate more points, and therefore still have a place on the winners’ podium.

Besides the category trophies and the second and third place certificates, there was the Healthy Kid Award – it is handed to a youth that exemplifies the positive attitude and personal improvement that are the founding principles of the HKRS. According to Kettler it was very hard to pick a recipient, because so many kids qualified.

Lily Fryar was so very deserving of the award. She might not be the fastest runner, but every single event day, not only ran her own 0.5 mile race, she supported others by running alongside them in their races, encouraging them to keep going. She must have run at least 2.5 miles each event Sunday. Last Sunday, she added even more distance, because she ran alongside her mother in the Parent Mile, who had supported her and her brother Isaac each step of the way. And last Sunday, she additionally photographed parents along the course and as they came towards the finish line.

But there were small success stories every single event day. A young man fell just after the start of one of his 0.5 mile race and badly scraped his knee. But he dusted off, clearly with pain, and finished the race, with his dad by his side. He ended up on the winners’ podium on the final day.

During the first race day, one young lady wanted to give up so badly. But her dad egged her on, to the point she got angry with him for not allowing her to quit. But she grew more and more confident in her running as the series progressed, to the point that she did not need her dad’s support and even helped others to not give up.

Another young lady had the misfortune of losing her shoe at least two times during her race, and she was so disappointed as her dad carried her across the finish line. But Kettler knew to turn the tears into a smile with “You ran so fast, your shoes couldn’t keep up!”

“What better way to support your kid than to run too,” Kettler said to parents, urging them to sign up for the Parent Mile.

“I was not sure what to expect when I announced the parent mile,” Kettler said.”The goal was to allow parents to show their children they too can be active. I also wanted a time for the kids to cheer on their parents. We had 18 parents participate and the excitement was amazing. I am so proud of the outcome.“

And the kids’ certainly return the favor their parents had shown them, by running alongside them, urging them on, or clapping along the course to keep them motivated to carry on.

Over the course of the series, the enrollments went up to 104, making the event an overall success for Kettler and her army of loyal volunteers and sponsors.

“Events such as HKRS do not happen without a team of people and community support,” Kettler said. “I am blown away by the support we have seen, not only in participants but also in volunteers and sponsors. We had organizations such as Texas Beef Team, Bosque County Democrat Club and Clifton High School Honor Society volunteer at our event. Even more we had individual volunteers see the value in our program and attend each week.”

With the event turning out to be so popular, Kettler is planning to continue organizing the series next year, and hopes to welcome even more enthusiastic families.

A link to weekly and final results can be found on HKRS Clifton Texas’ Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hkrscliftontx

The final series race results can be viewed through: https://healthykidsrunningseries.org/php-jdbc-bridge/results2/2021_Fall/clifton-tx-wk5

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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