APPLETON, Wis. - More than 5,000 people are preparing to participate in the 27th annual Community First Fox Cities Marathon this weekend. To date, the event has donated $950,000 back into the local community. The marathon also helps schools that often struggle with tight budgets.
"It really enhances what I can do with the students," explained Carrie Michiels, a physical education teacher at Horizons Elementary School in Appleton.
Michiels' classes have been instrumental in helping Horizons earn numerous healthy school awards, but with rising childhood obesity rates nationwide, she also promotes staying active outside of the classroom. Every year, she encourages students to sign up for one of the Fox Cities Marathon's six different races.
"When they come back the next day, they're wearing their medals and they're so excited about having the opportunity. They have their T-shirts on. They're just always happy and ready to show everybody what they were able to accomplish."
For some students, the competition reaches beyond the course. Horizons is one of many schools in the area that's participating in the School Specialty Healthy School Challenge. The contest is simple. The schools who have the highest percentage of student participation in any race during marathon weekend can win a $250, $500, or $1,000 gift certificate to buy supplies or equipment from School Specialty for their programs.
"We're just able to expand different things and really get equipment for our curriculum that is really needed," said Michiels.
She estimates that Horizons has won $2,000 over the years that they have used to buy balls, hula hoops, and other equipment for before and after school programs, recess activities, and to purchase materials for their nutrition education program.
"When we think about what we can have as an impact in our communities, that's a very real and positive impact that we're incredibly proud of," said Fox Cities Marathon Spokesperson Amanda Secor.
She said it's fulfilling to know that the races and the School Specialty challenge are giving the community a platform to start healthy habits at a young age.
"They're getting exercise, and they're doing great things for their body and their mind while they're doing it, and that is equipment that makes it happen."
All public and parochial schools in the Fox Cities and surrounding districts are eligible to compete in the Healthy School Challenge. There is no cost to schools to participate, but runners must pay the regular entry fee. So if you're running this weekend, don't forget to write down your school on the registration form.