KALAHEO — Just after a light summer rain, on a vast open field, Kalaheo Elementary School second-grader Aurora Keanini sprints 10 yards to an orange cone and runs back to fellow students anxiously waiting to be tagged.
After her run, she gives a couple of her teammates high fives, while others are enthusiastically cheering for the next runner in the relay.
She was among about 45 second and third graders who participated in an after school community service project put on by the Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon at Kalaheo Elementary School on Friday.
“It’s more about just getting them to get up and move and also talking about camaraderie and sportsmanship on a team, to make sure that we’re always cheering our fellow teammates on even though they may not be the best,” said Robin Jumper of the Kauai Marathon Youth Running Program.
Becky Morris, Kalaheo Elementary School second- and third-grade after school group leader, said the children were elated to participate in Friday’s activity.
“I think it’s a big treat we have people (like Robin) give them the experience of racing and being good sports and talking about good sportsmanship,” she said. “It’s really important that they learn it now.”
Over the last three years, Jumper said the program has worked with schools around the island.
“A lot of times (children) would like to be on their iPads. We just want to inspire kids to get outside and have fresh air,” she said. “They don’t have to win races. They don’t have to be the best. It’s more about participation and just getting outside and getting some exercise.”
Morris added, “It’s important for the kids to be healthy because a lot of them go home and play electronics. This is the one thing they can do for exercise. Even throughout the year, we do exercises and games for them, and some of them would rather just sit out. (Being active) has brought out a lot in themselves.”
The program also leads into the Keiki Run on Sept. 3 at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.
“The Keiki Run to me is the most fun element of the Kauai Marathon & Half Marathon weekend because they chase a six-foot tall chicken around this course that we have,” Jumper said. “The best thing for us is working with the kids and getting them excited about that run and seeing them participate and have a good time.”