Students help others by ‘Running with a Purpose’

Published 3:36 pm Monday, July 29, 2019

By SASHA JOHNS / Community Columnist

This past June, 12 middle school kids in Columbiana laced up their running shoes every Wednesday evening, in an effort to help others get a ride to work.

“Running with a Purpose” was the idea of youth leader Taryn Owens at Columbiana United Methodist Church.

Kids registered and secured at least five sponsors each.

Sponsors then donated a designated dollar amount per mile for each of the four 5K runs the kids did in June.

This generated $2,200 in donations to help others.

It all started when Owens met a woman named Celeste through her church.

Because of Celeste, she learned about a group at another church in Birmingham that leads a Tuesday devotion and meditation time for 20 women from all walks of life and economic situations.

This group, led in part by Mollie Erickson, meets every Tuesday at The Church of the Reconciler in Fairfield.

The leaders of the group do what they can through the church to provide bus passes for the women that come. Many don’t have transportation.

This inspired Owens to challenge the middle school students she leads at Columbiana UMC, to do something to help, and the result was Running with a Purpose.

The donations raised from these weekly 5Ks were given to the Church of the Reconciler, where the funds were used to purchase bus passes for those women struggling to get to work, doctors’ appointments, church, or even just to purchase and transport groceries.

With monthly bus passes being $44, and individual bus rides being $3 each, this money will be a big help.

How did the kids in Owens’ class respond after June was over? Fifteen-year-old Kinzie MacDonald shared some of her thoughts about what these runs in the summer heat have made her realize.

“It was definitely hard, but I remember that Mrs. Taryn told us that this is what these women go through to get places, and it really helped me to see that we take for granted some of the things we get,” she said. “I loved the chance to help them and do some outreach to people near us.”

It wasn’t all work, though. Each run ended with a swim that helped them cool off, and a little dinner and fellowship for them to share before they headed home each evening.

Pam Priborsky, mom and host of the after-run swim, shared her thoughts with us too.

“I think it was a real eye opener for them to realize how blessed they are,” she said. “They don’t have to worry about daily transportation, like the women they are helping do. I hope they learn to not to take little daily blessings for granted, and that they’ll be more sensitive to the needs of others.”

Owens was pleased with the results of Run with a Purpose this year, and is making plans to continue this project next year.

She also hopes that other church groups will join hers in the endeavor.

If you would like to further their cause with donations, you can reach Taryn Owens at