Saturday, May 23, 2015

Local child care program raises money to support hungry children - By Elizabeth Richards

Birchwood Day Nursery offered children the chance to run a “marathon” of their own after learning about the big race in Boston. Last week, children from the school ran to raise money to help ensure that children in Windham don’t go hungry. Families raised enough money to sponsor fourteen children for a school year through the RSU14 Backpack program. 
This year marks the fifth Birchwood Marathon, said Heather Marden, a teacher at the school. Since the beginning, the teachers have tied this run in with the Boston Marathon, teaching children the history of that race, talking about the many types of people who run, and studying marathon maps. There is also an emphasis on health and fitness throughout the study. 

Last year, the loss of the niece of one of the teachers inspired the school to begin raising money for a cause. “One of the things we try to teach the kids is the social aspects [of the Boston Marathon],” said Marden. The children learned how many people run in Boston to raise money for a specific cause.
While researching options on where to donate the money this year, Marden found the backpack program, which provides supplemental food to children every Friday to ensure that they aren’t going hungry over the weekend. Learning that just $200 could sponsor a child for a school year, she knew she’d found the right program to support. “One thing I wanted to do was make sure it reached children somehow,” said Marden, and $200 per child sponsorship was a realistic goal, she said.
Children at the school raise money through pledge sheets with flat donations. Marden said it was important to her that the children be the ones reaching out to raise the money. “The parents have really helped the kids take it upon themselves,” she said. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without our parents’ support.”

Children are beaming with pride when they bring their pledge sheets to school, she added. “It’s nice to see them realize they are helping kids,” said Marden.

The challenge that children have been training for is to run four laps around the front lawn of Birchwood Day Nursery without stopping. Like any marathon runner, the children have trained for the event. Marden said she teaches the children that most people run Boston not to win, but to finish. 

During the run, there is great camaraderie among children, she said. If someone falls, many children stop to offer the child a hand. This event is teaching children not just about being healthy physically, but also encouraging vital social and emotional development in the children, Marden said. 

 Last Thursday, the children completed their challenge with friends and family cheering them on. The three year olds at the school did their part too, participating in a hop-a-thon for the cause. The school had collected backpacks to give the children a visual of how many children they had helped through their fundraising efforts. “They get a lot out of it,” said Marden. “It’s been a very successful event.”

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