Chicago Run: Empowering Our Youth, One Mile at a Time
On Saturday, I ran 32 miles around the 400 meter track at Dunbar Park. That’s 128 dizzying laps, 512 left turns and a lot of people asking me: Are you okay?
The smile on my face reassured them that indeed, I was just fine. Ecstatic, actually. Hours and hours of running tends to leave me with a permanent grin, even if the body aches.
After my first couple of hours circling the track, one of the dads from a nearby little league game approached me with his young son. “Man, you’re a beast,” he said. “I’ve been here for two baseball games and you’ve been running the whole time.”
I smiled in response, a bit shy. “Just doing what I love,” I said, “it’s a nice day for it.”
The dad looked down at his son holding his hand. “Do you mind if my son runs a lap with you?” he asked.
“Not at all. Let’s go.”
The boy let go of his father’s hand and hitched on to my heels. I slowed my pace and asked him his name. He responded by giggling and sprinting off ahead of me. I ran to catch him.
Laughing and running. I got a little chill up my spine. This kid was having a blast. And before I knew it, as we circled the track (a bit slower now that he reached his lactate threshold level, I assume) we gradually picked up other little leaguers from his team. I counted six happy little runners following me in circles. No talking, just giggling. And several pick-ups in pace among them.
I didn’t say anything either. Just smiled and kept on. Our actions were more than enough. I felt like the pied piper of fitness. The kids were having fun just moving.
Because kids love to run! It’s part of their nature! It’s who they are!
Unfortunately, many Chicago kids are forced to curb that natural instinct. They live in unsafe environments. Their homes are in food deserts that leave them with poor nutrition. They go to schools with budgets that fail them.
But Chicago Run, the non-profit organization Team LOL is running across Illinois for in a few weeks, is restoring that natural freedom back to the children who so desperately need it. They are working with Chicago Public Schools to get kids active again. They are building the foundation for a future of educated, empowered, physically fit young people — a foundation that is paramount to the wellness of our city.
They are doing amazing things. They are putting smiles on kids’ faces. They are making a difference.
And they need our help. You can help by visiting *HERE*.
In the meantime, consider the case of Alex, a student from Walsh Elementary in the Pilsen neighborhood. A participant in Chicago Run’s “Running Mates” program, affected by the program’s nutrition lessons and running challenges, Alex soon started to notice that his belt was in need of extra holes, that his pants were getting bigger and no longer fit properly. He took the lessons he was learning and shared them with his family, igniting a healthier lifestyle at home. Months later, Alex found himself on the steps of the White House, giving a speech on how Chicago Run empowered him to be healthy before introducing first lady, Michelle Obama.
Chicago Run is bringing health and longevity back to our kids. Consider being a part of this important mission. You won’t be sorry.
Jeff, you’re an amazing friend. You continue to inspire me by your running abilities but even more so by your love of life and warm heart. Thanks for sharing all of these stories and bringing the kids along for the ride!
July 22, 2012 at 13:22
My pleasure, Siamak, and thanks for the support. In life, I think we all are able to do more than we think we can. Running has taught me that for sure.
July 22, 2012 at 13:38
Amazing video, Jeff, and touching story about the kids joining you on the track. Hard for us privileged ones to remember that what I might complain about sometimes (“It’s too hot/cold/rainy/windy/late/early to run” “I don’t have time for this workout today” “I would much rather have a beer than run”) is a rare gift for kids who, unbelievably, cannot do what I can do just by stepping out my door. And so great to be reminded that every one of us is a part of that community of runners. Loved the images of the children receiving THEIR marathon finisher medals. I will try to remember, as I cross my next finish line, how proud and happy these children are with their victories too.
July 22, 2012 at 16:32
It’s easy to forget why we do the things we do sometimes. Always good to be reminded. Thanks, Kirsten!
July 23, 2012 at 15:33
Definitely just sent Chicago Run my information for future volunteering opportunities. Way to reach out and use your powers for good, Jeff. Here’s to hoping I can start doing the same.
July 23, 2012 at 10:42
Awesome, Dan! Thanks! You won’t be disappointed!
July 23, 2012 at 15:33
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