Freezing temperatures and a fresh blanket of snow couldn’t stop Grace Jordan Elementary students from racing into Christmas break in style.
Eighty-four members of the Boise elementary school’s student running clubs joined the hundreds of other holiday revelers who turned out for the YMCA’s annual Christmas Run on Saturday morning.
Four years ago, Grace Jordan counselors and teachers formed a running club with 12 girls. Since then, participation has skyrocketed.
Now the Girls with Grace club boasts 45 members and school officials responded to increased demand by forming the Jaguar Joggers boys’ club last year. The boys’ group now includes 30 runners.
Sixth-grader Olivia Greeley, one of the original members of the club, said Girls with Grace offers her a chance to make friends and stay active.
“I do a lot of sports so this is one my sports I do every winter and spring,” Olivia said just before the start of the race. “I just enjoy running because I do lots of sports.”
Saturday’s dash through the snow was billed as a celebration for members of the Girls with Grace and Jaguar Joggers student clubs. Boys decked themselves out in Santa hats and the girls donned spotted elf caps for the two-mile and six-mile races.
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Principal Tim Lowe, who ran Saturday’s race with the students, said teachers have reported numerous benefits to the clubs. The activities have become a cherished vehicle for staying fit and healthy, and teachers report that students in the club feel better about themselves and are exhibiting more confidence and focus in the classroom.
“The biggest thing is we’re really trying to stress importance of healthy mind and healthy body,” Lowe said. “Kids really have a sense of belonging and they get a real close interaction with their adult mentors.”
Counselor Lindsay Thomas and third grade teacher Madeline Johnson started the club four years ago as a low-cost alternative to more expensive sports and running groups. Students run the sidewalks and canals near their school twice a week during eight-week sessions in the fall and spring.
Adult sponsors teach the young runners about leading a healthy lifestyle, and help boost the students’ self esteem.
“We try to set goals and keep ourselves in good shape,” third-grader Tabitha Redmon said. “It’s got a lot of familiar faces and you can meet new kids too.”
Twice a year, the students celebrate their accomplishments by participating in the YMCA Christmas Run and the Famous Idaho Potato 5K in the spring.
Although the conditions might be a little more inviting in the spring, the only Grinches huddled near the starting line in the snow were those celebrating Christmas with a fun costume.
“The atmosphere is really electric,” Lowe said.
“I’m not really worried, because I like the snow and I like the cold too,” sixth-grade runner Josh Goodsell said.