Sunday, January 12, 2014

Day 17 - How to convince 192 kids to run 32 flights of stairs

His name was Levi Brown and he had a dream, or so it stated on his mom's Facebook page one evening last January.  You see, Levi has this absolutely adorable baby brother named Tucker who was born with congenital heart defects.  Since the day he was born, Tucker has been fighting for his life, some days fighting for each breath.  The ironic part is that when you see him, you would never know it.  He looks like a normal little guy, just happy to be here.  After the long struggle to bring Tucker home, and then helping him thru his first 8 months of life, his family decided to celebrate their journey by creating Team Tucker and participating in the Fight For Air Climb at the Hilton Springfield.  The climb consists of 32 consecutive flights of stairs and is a fundraiser for the American Lung Association.  Levi's mom created a fundraising goal of $1200 and went to work recruiting fellow runners with the simple theme, "Climb, because you can."  In the early recruiting stages, Levi commented one night that it would be REALLY cool if all of his buddies could run along side him up those 32 flights of stairs.  

Ever run across a Facebook post you just can't get out of your mind?  Well, this one triggered myself and a few other mothers in our school PAWS group to start kicking around some ideas.  The cost of participating in the climb was $125.00 per person, not necessarily a feasible fundraising figure for every single one of Levi's buddies, and we wanted all of them to be there to fulfill this dream.  So, we decided to go another route.  This was when the beauty of a small school in a small community began to reveal itself in a heartwarming way.

Our first stop was to the superintendent's office for plan approval.  We received an enthusiastic yes, and headed to the gym to get the PE teacher on board.  He too embraced our idea with open arms.  

Here's the logistics on how it all went down.  We decided to create a dual purpose for this event, 1. promote healthy exercise and fitness to our Waverly students and their families, and 2. create a community service event by donating all funds raised to Team Tucker and the Fight for Air Climb.  By registering, students would pay just $2.00 and sign up for a 25-day Boot Camp where they would do a mixture of daily Crossfit exercises and stair climbing.  Thanks to the help of Brian Chandler at Capital City Crossfit, we were able to introduce the students to a variety of new exercises to help get them into shape for their Climb.  The PE teacher did the exercises with the students each day, and families could participate at home thanks to Facebook, Instagram and YouTube videos.  Then, on February 14, we would host our very own Waverly Fight For Air Climb at the grade school gym.  For the 32 flights of stairs, we set up 8 stations around the gym using bleacher and locker room steps.  Every up and down was counted as 1 flight, and the kids were challenged to do 32 flights, to match the number of stairs at the Hilton Fight for Air Climb.

For a K-12 school population of roughly 375 students, we were pretty happy to have 92 participants sign up in advance.  Boot camp went well, and all students regardless of whether they registered or not, got to do the daily exercises in PE class:).  We even had a plank contest and discovered 2 very competive 2nd graders who held their planks for over 24 minutes!!! I can barely get to one minute!

On the day of the climb, we had a great group of volunteers show up to help out.  Students did their climb during PE class, and we started with the 7th grade, who only had 4 participants signed up.  We had them run while the rest of the class cheered them on.  When they finished, I looked around the room and randomly asked if anyone else would be interested in giving it a try.  Almost every single hand in the room shot up!  Holy cow, I about fell over!  So, by the end of that period about 90% of the class had participated.  The rest of the day copied first period.  So much interest, apparently kids like to run, you just have to give them a reason to.  The tv crew showed up to film when Levi's class did their climb, and when 25% of the high schooler's walked in the gym to run, I about fell over.  (many of them came so they could get out of health class...rather ironic, don't you think?).  Around 1pm, Levi's mom Letitia was called over to the high school, and came back with a $400 check that the high school students decided to donate to Team Tucker, it was unmarked fundraising money they had raised and decided on their own to give to a worthy cause.  I should also mention a few high school boys asked for permission to run some extra flights.  Really?  Knock yourselves out!  A few stopped at 250, and one made it all the way to 400 flights!!! That, I wasn't expecting.

The Kindergarteners were perhaps the most overwhelming and enthusiastic group.  They have a lot of energy, luckily we had a way for them to burn it that day.   Great kids, and so excited to receive their certificates in our awards ceremony at the end of class.  

By the end of the day Levi could say that he and his 192 buddies all climbed at least 32 flights of stairs together.  It was a good day.  Several of those kids went on to climb with Levi at the Hilton that weekend.  And Team Tucker, they raised a little more than $1200, it was more like $11,000.

Fast forward to today, we are preparing for our 2nd Annual PAWS Fight For Air Climb on Thursday, February 13.  Boot Camp has started and we have over 100 registrations in already.  I guess I have Levi Brown to thank for his simple dream, he's given a whole lot of kids a huge goal they never knew they could accomplish, and now they want to do it again.

Let me know if you'd like to volunteer some of your time on February 13 to help cheer on our Waverly climbers.  For someone like me who really doesn't enjoy running, this day is about making running "All in the name of good fun."

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