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Colorado Springs elementary students rack up miles for Bear-a-Thon fundraiser

October 26, 2016 Updated: October 26, 2016 at 4:49 pm
Caption +
Broadmoor Elementary School third graders Ella Byron, left, and Stella Faricy, hold hands as they run together along with fellow third and second graders to finish the final lap of a school fundraiser Wednesday, October 26, 2016. Students at the school started the fundraiser in August and have been running or walking laps on the playground during recess after getting pledges from friends and relatives. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Seven-year-old Eve Brenner has never been a fan of running.

"We put her in soccer, and she didn't like it. She said it was too much running," said her dad, Joe Brenner.

Not anymore. Eve now loves running so much that she's logged a marathon's worth of pumping her legs as fast as she could since the first week of school in August.

"It's good exercise," Eve, a second-grader at Broadmoor Elementary School, said Wednesday. "I didn't know you could get a medal for it."

Eve is one of 126 students at the school in Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 who completed a marathon distance of 26.2 miles over the past eight weeks.

Another 186 students finished a half-marathon, and every student in the school ran at least one lap during the second annual Bear-a-Thon fundraiser the parent-teacher organization sponsored.

During Wednesday's finale, all students took one last lap in the morning, then celebrated with bouncy houses and slides, popsicles and hula hooping. An Olympic athlete presented medals and other awards at an afternoon closing ceremony.

"It's awesome," Brenner said. "They're promoting active lifestyles with the kids in a way they can grasp."

Broadmoor Bears who participated swiped bar-coded identification tags every time they ran a quarter-mile lap on the playground during lunch recess. The opportunity came for 30 minutes three days a week.

For reaching milestones, they earned plastic-feet tokens to put on necklaces.

"It's fantastic - it gives them ownership of their health and fitness and helps them set goals and reach those goals," said parent Amy Miller.

The PTO's annual fundraiser got a facelift last year, adding kids' participation to get more "buy-in," said parent volunteer Erin Eilmes.

The strategy worked, she said.

"It's an amazing program," Eilmes said. "We got 97 percent participation, corporate sponsorships, and pledges and donations from families and friends."

The PTO raised enough money in the past to buy classroom iPads and set aside $10,000 for future upgrades to the playground.

Enrichment curriculum for students and teachers is being eyed for this year's proceeds.

Students collectively ran 6,893.75 miles, surpassing last year's mark.

"Some of these kids had never run a mile, let alone 40 miles," Eilmes said.

Her son, Ace, ran more than four marathons.

"This year, I have 109 miles. Last year, I had 107," said Ace, a fifth-grader.

But he admits he's not the fastest kid in the school.

"I've had to build up my stamina, and today I set my record of 17 laps," Ace said. "I wish we could do it in the winter and spring."

Older kids helped younger kids reach their goals by encouraging them to keep on trucking and often jogged alongside them.

"It's pretty easy, but if you let it get to you, then you don't feel like you can do it," said sixth-grader Rileigh Morgan, who finished 30 miles. Her grandparents pledged to donate a dollar per mile, she said.

"It's fostering so much in addition to fitness, including relationships built through mentoring," said PTO President Kristina Knight. "It's been such a touching thing."

Evan Miller, 10, said he kept thinking about the congratulations and other rewards that awaited when the whole thing was over.

"I thought it would feel really relieving, and it does," he said after getting cowbell clunks and woots for completing the final laps of a marathon distance on Monday. "It feels like a big accomplishment."

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