A boys running program at Mary Endres Elementary School is teaching kids about more than athleticism and fitness — it’s promoting teamwork, confidence and more.

Let Me Run is in its third season at MEES, with 21 fourth- and fifth-grade boys taking part in the after-school program, which guides students through a running curriculum culminating in a 5K. Participants in the seven-week program meet for 90 minutes twice a week.

“Our volunteer coaches worked with the boys over several weeks to help them improve their relationship skills, increase their confidence and embrace an active lifestyle,” said MEES principal Keri Pala. “It is a positive after-school program, and I am so glad we are able to offer it to the boys.”

Let Me Run is a nationwide program similar to Girls on the Run, an organization which is active in many Woodstock School District 200 schools. At MEES, which is currently the only school in District 200 to offer Let Me Run, boys expressed an interest in joining a running club aimed at them.

MEES teachers Kiera Parpart, Steve Ryan and Bob Danielson started the school’s program in 2016.

“We would love to see the program expand in Woodstock,” said Parpart, who coaches kids in both the boys and girls programs.

This year, teachers Parpart and Jen Waldack were joined by Chris Rodolfo and Woodstock North High School cross-country coach Cas Creighton.

Let Me Run covers more ground than just running. The program promotes camaraderie and teamwork, along with a structured curriculum to guide boys in confidence, wellness and self-expression.

“During the team unity lap and discussion, we run together and talk about words to live by. They are powerful and impactful, and I love hearing the ideas the boys share,” said Waldack.

Parpart added, “I love the message to be themselves, not who others expect them to be. Boys get a lot of pressure to be a certain way, and LMR encourages them to be themselves and to explore their own gifts and talents.”

Boys have an opportunity to learn proper stretching and running techniques, nutrition, respect and goal-setting.

“The enormous amount of determination in working toward goals and seeing the boys push themselves is inspiring,” Parpart said. “They’re learning self-motivation, and this will serve them throughout their whole life.”

Encouragement, developing new friendships, teamwork and training are all a cumulative effort, building up to the final week, a 5K run. This season, the run took place on and around the school’s grounds Nov. 2.

Runners were greeted at the finish line by parents, staff, coaches and teammates. Fifth-graders Alex Azarela and Luis Butler said the 5K was “the funnest part” of the program.

“Most of the boys smashed their goal times,” Parpart said. “I loved seeing them walk around wearing their medals and a proud smile.”

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