Helping kids run into fitness

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

HOOVER — When Spain Park junior Grace Connolly was considering possibilities for her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she decided she wanted to inspire others by using the lessons she’s learned as a cross country runner and soccer player.

Connolly returned to her roots at Greystone Elementary School, where she attended kindergarten through fifth grade, and started the Jag Running Club there.

Connolly.

“It’s cool because that’s where I started, and I can give back,” she said.

Before school begins on Monday and Wednesday mornings, Connolly and other high school students working with her gather at Greystone Elementary to lead 25-30 kids in running and athletic games for 30 minutes.

“It kind of gets their blood pumping,” said Connolly, who referenced Alabama’s ranking as the second most obese state. “The goal is to help them exercise and develop healthy habits.”

However, the exercise is providing lots of positive side effects. As the kids grow faster and stronger, they’re able to see the physical results, Connolly said.

“I can see confidence in them,” she said. “I had 20 kids run a 5k a few weeks ago. It was their first one ever.”

Some of the children she works with are headed into middle school next year, and they plan to run cross country for their school team, Connolly said.

She said she hopes to expand the club eventually to include other elementary schools. She has come up with a workout and running program that club sponsors at other schools could use.

Once Connolly graduates high school and moves on to college, a younger Spain Park student has volunteered to keep the Jag Running Club moving at Greystone. Connolly hopes that Spain Park students will continue to step up to keep the club going through the years.

“It’s a large commitment, but it’s definitely worth it,” she said. “I just love to see their progress. I like to see a child come into their own.”