YMCA programs will continue after grant

Runners — including many youth — are shown at the start of the 5K at Lake Lanier.

June 17, 2015

            The Miles in Martinsville Challenge Series of runs, as well as two other programs, will become self-sustaining when Harvest Foundation grant funds expire at the end of this year.

            Brad Kinkema, CEO/executive director of the Martinsville-Henry County Family YMCA, said Miles in Martinsville, Doctor’s Orders and the Bike Barn were started through a two-year, $70,000 Harvest grant to Activate Martinsville-Henry County in 2013. Activate now is a program of the YMCA.

            “This is the last year we get any Harvest funding,” Kinkema said. “With more individuals in races and sponsors, we have been able to make it self-sustaining” and the programs will continue.

            The three programs are funded collaboratively, with fees for two helping support the third. Kinkema said the Bike Barn makes bicycles available to people on the Dick & Willie Passage, but collects no money except possibly donations. Doctor’s Orders allows local physicians to write “prescriptions” for patients to receive one-on-one health and wellness consulting at the YMCA for a reduced fee. The Miles in Martinsville runs have entry fees.

            Miles in Martinsville began five years ago with a half marathon, Kinkema said. “It was successful in encouraging people to get healthy as well as provide another source of revenue for the YMCA.”

            As a result, a seven-event series of runs was created and sponsors’ support was enlisted.

            “The whole idea was to get people active, running and walking,” he said.

            The series has grown to the point that in 2014, a total of more than 1,300 (unduplicated) residents of Henry County and Martinsville took part in the events. In all, people from 19 states participated, Kinkema said.

            Participation in the local events has reached a plateau, he said, because there are many races held in nearby communities for runners to choose from. To get the numbers rising again, officials are trying to come up with unique races that will attract runners and walkers, he added.

            For instance, on May 16 a Super Run 5K and 8K was held, and participants were encouraged to dress like their favorite super hero, Kinkema said.

            Also, Miles in Martinsville is collaborating with Run for God, a devotional-based running program that culminates in a 5K. Kinkema this year, the Miles in Martinsville Turkey Run on Thanksgiving Day will be the culmination of the Run for God program.

            Also, walking divisions are being added to the events, he said. “We want people to get out and moving,” he added.

            Two programs were key factors in increasing the number of participants — especially those ages 14 and younger — in the Miles in Martinsville program, Kinkema said, citing Girls on the Run and the STRIDE program for boys.

            Both programs serve youth in grades 3-5 and 6-8 for two 10-week seasons each spring and fall. There are about 100 girls in the Girls on the Run program and about 30 boys in STRIDE, which is only in its second season, Kinkema said.

            Students are recruited for the programs at area schools, he said, which is convenient for the programs that meet at the schools. Programs also are held at the Martinsville and Collinsville YMCAs. Youth meet twice a week for 10 weeks.

Both programs teach youth to run, but they go far beyond that, dealing with issues such as self-esteem, anti-bullying and being proud of one’s own body, Kinkema said. Girls on the Run also stresses that girls should not judge themselves by images in magazines, he added.

The programs culminate in a 5K, the Super Run, which typically draws nearly 500 participants and is the largest Miles in Martinsville event, Kinkema said. Each youth must be accompanied by a running buddy, so the 130 youth and their 130 buddies make up more than half of the runners, he said.

 “We have such an obesity crisis. It’s great to see the kids up and active, and it draws their parents too,” Kinkema said.

However, both Girls on the Run and STRIDE depend on volunteers, some of whom are youth who have gone through the program and come back to help, often serving as role models for the younger participants, Kinkema said. He added that 25-30 volunteers are needed to operate the program.

Anyone interested in helping with the programs can contact Becky Forestier, assistant director, at 647-3089 or at becky@martinsvilleymca.com.


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