Calling All Kids, 8-12: Join the Fleet Feet Kids Klub!
How the Kids Klub is Connecting Kids to Running, Around the World, and Now in Central PA
by Karen Hendricks
Betsy McCoy stopped by Fleet Feet Mechanicsburg for some running advice about three years ago. That one conversation set a chain of events into motion, spreading the joy of running around the globe and back to Central Pennsylvania, resulting in the creation of Fleet Feet Mechanicsburg’s newest running program, the Fleet Feet Kids Klub.
Here’s how it all happened:
Betsy, who is from Camp Hill, founded a nonprofit that provides supplemental education to rural, impoverished children in southern India. It’s called Communities Rising. Not only do they provide after-school lessons in English and computer skills, but they provide a week-long summer camp that enriches about 300 children’s lives with swimming lessons, robotics, and more.
Some of the children were interested in running, so during a trip back home to Central Pennsylvania, Betsy visited Fleet Feet Mechanicsburg to talk to owner C. Fred Joslyn about training, exercises, socks, and how she should design a running program for the kids.
“Overseeing a nonprofit organization, you meet many people over the course of the year who say they want to come help you,” says Betsy. “Fred is one of those few people who actually did.”
That’s right—after that one conversation, Fred says he was “intrigued” by Betsy’s questions, so he personally designed the kids’ running program, based upon the Fleet Feet “No Boundaries Begin to Run” program that has successfully turned hundreds of Harrisburg-area residents into runners.
It didn’t end there. Through fundraising and the leveraging of relationships, Fred provided socks, shirts, medals, and sneakers for all 300 children. Then—the final and perhaps most important step—he traveled to India to implement the week-long program in May of 2017.
“Just listening to him talk about running makes you want to go out and try,” says Betsy. “When he’s running with the kids, he encourages them by making them feel proud of what they are doing. If they have to stop and walk for a while, it’s ok. His positive attitude gets them running again. He has a smile for each and every runner and they always smile back. It was amazing to watch.”
There were lots of smiles and curiosity when the kids received their socks and sneakers. That’s because none of the kids had ever owned shoes before.
Fred faced many challenges including 105-degree days. “I was kind of struggling, but the kids live there, so they’re much more used to it,” he says with a laugh.
The program was so life-changing and meaningful, that Fred returned in May 2018, bringing several volunteers from the Harrisburg running community.
Betsy says his visits are life-changing for the children as well. Through running, the kids learn about setting goals, working toward the completion of a 5K (3.1 miles) by the end of the week.
“In this area of India it’s so rural and it’s so poor the kids don’t really have an example of seeing anyone run for fitness. It’s especially important for the girls,” says Betsy.
Unlike the U.S., there are no organized sports or team sports in this region of India. Fitness, exercise, and nutrition aren’t part of their curriculum. In one week, Fred’s program tries to incorporate it all.
“With everything we do, we’re always trying to help the kids set goals and then be persistent enough to get there. I think Fred’s running program may be more about that, then the actual running,” Betsy says.
Fred’s third trip to India will happen this May, but first, he’s launching the program here at home in Central PA, on April 2.
“The Kids Klub builds confidence in kids and a foundation for a healthy lifestyle,” Fred says.
Just like the program in India, Fleet Feet Mechanicsburg’s Kids Klub will culminate in the completion of a 5K that’s not based on speed. There’s one major difference: Unlike the week-long camp in India, the Kids Klub is a 10-week program that builds skills and fitness gradually.
Any child, ages 8-12, is welcome to participate! Please forward this info to families and friends throughout Central PA whose children would be interested!
Betsy can attest to the power of running, in the lives of children. “Teaching kids the importance of regular exercise and taking care of yourself, plus goal-setting…you can’t start too young,” she says.
She can also vouch for Fred’s ability to inspire and relate to kids. “He makes it so fun; he’s really encouraging. In the heat of India, with 200 kids hanging all over him, he doesn’t lose his cool so I’d say he’s a positive influence.”
There’s an emphasis on reaching the underserved Central PA population through the Kids Klub, in order to “give back” just as the program does in India. If your family or a child you know is interested in participating, but is in need of financial assistance, please email email@example.com.