Four years ago, Mary Feldt, a physical education teacher at Waupaca Learning Center, was looking for a way to get her students moving and more people involved in the annual Riverside Medical Center Fun Run.
She asked Craig Kantos, hospital CEO, if one of her classes could get free registration for the event in exchange for volunteering with race preparations. He agreed and Feldt got third grade teacher Linda Fenton involved. Volunteering was also a way to have students involved in service work, said Feldt. The students folded T-shirts, made signs, wrote chalk messages and cheered on other racers when their race was done. About 13 students and as many parents participated in the event, she said. “That first year, Linda walked or ran with her class during the day and I did the same when they came to my class,” said Feldt.
They also started meeting with students after school two days a week and became the Mighty Milers, increasing running skills and participating in events like the RMC Fun Run and the school’s Turkey Trot.
On May 2, about 70 Mighty Milers, including runners and family and friends, will once again join the community for the 29th Annual RMC Fun Run, which starts at Old Riverside School. Participants can choose between the 1 mile or 5K races or participate in both races. There is a team challenge of four members to a team as well as a costume contest and prizes.
ThedaCare, through the Waupaca Community Health Action Plan, provided sponsorship by donating $1,500 because the event supports efforts to address obesity.
Interest in the running group has accelerated, said Feldt. “This spring, our Mighty Miler numbers have exploded,” she said.
To date, there are over 80 students enrolled in the Mighty Milers and an average of 60 students running twice a week. “We were aimed at third and fourth graders but then little brothers and sisters wanted to join and some older ones too,” she said. “We don't want to discourage anyone so we welcomed them. Now we have K-6 grade runners and some wonderful parents that run with us.”
Feldt said students enjoy running and achieving goals during the Mighty Milers. They have also been inspired and encouraged by Dean Sondrol, a physical therapist at ThedaCare, who comes every year to talk about “running, training , exercise, proper nutrition and stretching,” said Feldt. “We really appreciate the partnership we have with RMC and ThedaCare.”
Currently, there are 56 students and parents signed up for the upcoming Fun Run. Third graders still receive free registration and volunteer for race preparations.
Sondrol looks forward talking to the students about running. “Once we get them involved and active, we can get the parents involved and it builds from there,” he said.
The fun run promotes health and community events in the area, said Sondrol. “It’s a popular thing for the community because it’s been around for many years,” he said. “People are expecting it.”
People of all skill levels participate. “We will have people who will walk it all and people who run,” he said, noting he takes pride in the fact that the event is “encouraging people to get out and be active.”
The 1 mile race starts at 9 am and the 5K starts at 10 am. Registration is $12 for the 1-mile race and $17.50 for the 5K. Participants can register the before race day to be eligible for participation prizes. There are also gifts and prize drawings for advance on-line registrations. Prizes include $75, $50 and $25 for Best Individual Costume; $25 for Best Team (two or more) Costume; and $50 for 1st and $25 for 2nd.