KEKAHA — It’s a Tuesday morning at 7 and Kekaha Elementary School is preparing for its first day of classes.
Children and parents bustle about finding rooms and teachers usher aid and directions, but around back, something new is drawing attention. A tent and tables have been erected and organizers stand ready for the inaugural launch of a new before-school program, “Morning Mile,” sponsored by the Family and Friends of Agriculture.
A running/walking program originating in Florida, Morning Mile is designed to help tackle childhood obesity by giving kids the opportunity to be active every day. The challenge of course being, how to motivate today’s youth to step away from the TV and go for an early morning walk — an act cringe-worthy enough for most adults.
But perhaps we make it too hard.
“Music, socializing, that’s all they want, and to get moving,” said Chelsie Ruiz, student services coordinator.
With upbeat tunes playing on the stereo and tables strewn with snacks and fruit-infused water, we are ready to go.
As the final bus pulls in, an onslaught of young people rush the field and are quickly funneled onto an elongated loop measured for safety and distance of one-eighth of a mile. Shouts encouraging walking are as quickly abandoned as they are ignored. Enthusiasm reigns.
Each lap earns the prize of a straw, to be recorded and tracked for more incentives. Every participant receives a necklace, and a charm for every five miles.
Organizers hope to arrange classroom challenges and rewards.
“This is awesome,” says Christian Schlosser, father of Cooper and Piper, grades three and four respectively.
As a parent, he said it’s the sort of activity he would like to see the community promote more of and was happy to see faculty moving right alongside the kids.
“When children see teachers, they like doing this, it’s more motivating for them,” Scholosser said.
Piper’s and Cooper’s consensus? “It was fun.”
The kids hand in their straws to be tallied with impressive records of 12 laps for boys and 10 laps for girls. One first grader managed nine. A total of 52 students were counted and parents are welcome to participate, volunteer, sponsor, or donate to the program.
As the group breaks down the tables, there is a chorus of happy shouts from the assembly hall. A new year has finally begun.
To find out more about the national program, go to morningmile.com. Those wishing to support the program in Kekaha should contact Ruiz.