Site Spotlight: Christina Van Dorf – Mighty Milers

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Learn more about our NYRR Youth Programs! Over the next few months we will be sharing profiles on teachers from across the country who work first-hand with the NYRR Youth Programs that Team for Kids’ fundraising efforts support. These select individuals are not just dedicated coaches and coordinators, but also runners who will be joining our 2015 TCS New York City Marathon class and 50,000 other runners this November. Read their stories on our blog under the Site Spotlight category for insight into the NYRR Youth Programs and to hear inspirational quotes from students and parents.

In which program is your site enrolled?
Mighty Milers!

Where are you located?
Arlington, TX

What was your motivation to start an NYRR Youth Program at your site and how has it been implemented?
I started a run club during our PE time at our school about 2 years ago but was struggling to find the money to offer incentives and it was difficult for me to manage inputting mileage and figuring totals/awards in the excel program I used. The NYRR program was a perfect fit for us and has not only encouraged our students to run more but convinced me to do the same as I am training to run the 2015 TCS New York City marathon. The students are excited to be able to go online and see their progress towards their goal and to see the mileage I have been logging as well. We are so thankful for the support of NYRR Team for Kids runners!

Can you share how your students have responded to the program and some of their favorite components?
Our students are very motivated by setting and achieving their goals and enjoy the healthy competition among each other and across grade levels. They like being able to check their progress online and they LOVE the incentives that come in the mail and knowing they come all the way from NYC! It makes them feel like a part of something bigger and connect with kids across the nation.

Can you share an inspiring quote from a student or parent?
“I can’t believe how much my kid loves to run! He comes home every Wednesday telling me how much he ran and now he wants to sign up to run 5k’s. Looks like I will have to get back in shape and start running with him! Thanks for bringing this program to our school.” 2nd Grade Parent

What do you believe are the biggest benefits of your program and the importance of the work you are carrying out?
Kids across the nation are struggling to stay fit and when all of us PE teachers administer the FitnessGram test it is clear where they have the most difficult time meeting the Healthy Fitness Zone standards and that is Aerobic Capacity. Therefore I felt it was important to face this issue head on and see if I could change that in my students. I am proud to say that after implementing our run program and being able to be a part of NYRR Mighty Milers, our school performs above and beyond on the running portion of their FitnessGram test. They have also developed a love of running and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it. But the best thing I get to see is when they start signing up with their parents, siblings, and even grandparents to run races. This run program has not only impacted our students but their families as well and that is very exciting to me!

When did your relationship with running begin and why?
I remember starting to run in elementary school because my PE teacher was very encouraging and made it fun. Then in middle school I went out for cross country and had a coach that believed in me as well and helped me to learn how to really push myself. I continued to run in high school to stay in shape for my other sports. It’s interesting that now I teach and coach at all those levels how I get the opportunity to positively impact kids in the same way and hopefully help instill in them a life long love of running.

What is your favorite place to run and why?
We don’t have a lot of beautiful scenic places to run near my home and with having two young boys and working full time I have to run at 5:00 a.m. or earlier. So I have really come to enjoy running along what I know is usually busy city streets during the day but are quite and still in the early am. It’s a peaceful way to start my day.

Why did you choose to run the TCS New York City Marathon and what number marathon is this for you?
This will be my FIRST Marathon and I am so excited! I chose to do this because I felt like it would be a great inspiration for my students. I have scoliosis and don’t usually tell anyone or make it a big deal but one of the other teachers at my school encouraged me to share my xray with the students and parents on social media so they could be inspired to not let their shortcomings hold them back from running or doing whatever else that may seem impossible. Lastly, I could not do this without the help of my family and friends like Ralph Parks with New Balance who I am forever grateful for his encouragement and support.

Tell us a little more about yourself
I married my high school sweetheart, have two crazy boys ages 6 and 3. I teach 1st-12th grade PE and coach middle school basketball and track. I have the joy of serving as the NFL Play 60 FitnessGram Dallas Cowboys Champion where I mentor other local PE teachers. And I am very passionate about educating and encouraging today’s youth on the importance of taking charge of their health and fitness so they can enjoy a long, quality life!

#ReasonsToRun: Inspire a Success Story

It finally feels like spring and with that comes a rebirth, a sense that anything is possible, especially after our harsh northeast winter. This is the time to set your spring and summer running goals, whether that’s training for a PR or your first race. Our Young Runners have been training inside throughout the winter and are also looking forward to the warm weather spring will bring and the outdoor running opportunities.

Kids like Abdel are especially looking forward to spring running opportunities. In sixth grade, Abdel was the class clown. His GPA suffered and he had to attend summer school. In seventh grade, Abdel joined his Young Runners team, studied hard, and was rewarded with a high honors “A” grade average. “Abdel is the true definition of a student-athlete with a success story,” says his coach. Now in ninth grade, Abdel, 14, completed the January NYRR Fred Lebow Manhattan Half in 1:41 by training outside in December, and has improved his mile time to 5:43 from 8:18. “He embodies the essence of what we want all Young Runners to be like,” says Kotung.

Abdel is just one of our Reasons to Run with Team for Kids. What’s yours?


For more information on how to support programs like this and sign up to run with Team for Kids visit: https://runwithtfk.org/

Share your reasons to run by using #ReasonsToRun and tagging Team for Kids in your post on Facebook and @TeamforKids on Instagram or Twitter. You can also email us a photo and your reason to run at teamforkids@nyrr.org with #ReasonsToRun in the subject line for a chance to be featured.

Member Spotlight: Ashlee Lawson

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What event are you running with Team for Kids?
The AirBnB Brooklyn Half!

What is your favorite place to run and why?
Currently, my favorite place to run is near and around the monuments, museums and National Mall where I live in Washington, DC. No matter how many times I run the same or similar route, I always seem to discover something new, such as a new trail, hidden gem, or the sun reflecting off of the Tidal Basin in a different way. Not to mention the Cherry Blossoms!

If you run with music, what are your favorite artists or songs to listen to?
On shorter runs, I enjoy upbeat pop and hip-hop. Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry and other top 100 artists. It gives me the energy I need to finish strong. On longer runs, I tend to slow it down a bit. Lot’s of R&B, alternative rock…I’ll throw a little funk in there as well. A few favorite artists are Mayer Hawthorne, The Neighbourhood, Sam Smith, JMSN, FKA Twigs and AlunaGeorge.

What is your favorite post-run meal?
Post-run, I like to keep my meal simple. A protein and a veggie. Try and switch it up between chicken and seafood.

When did your relationship with running begin and why?
Although I have been running for years, I fell in love with running once I moved to DC and joined the District Running Collective. DRC has really supported me as I grow as a runner and is the perfect way to get fit and be social at the same time.

Running (sports in general) really is the great equalizer. There are no egos, just people sharing the common thread of getting better, stronger, and faster with each mile.

Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions, if so, please explain?
Pre-race, I always eat 1 boiled egg, 1/2 of a bagel, 1 banana and a half cup of coffee. Seems to be a good balance of protein, carbs, potassium and energy I need to get me through.

I also always lay out all of my race gear and share a photo with my social media networks the night before. I sleep much easier knowing everything is ready to go for me bright and early in the morning!

Why did you choose to run this event?
Super excited to run through and explore Brooklyn with several close friends. We will travel up to NY from DC to enjoy all that this race and the city have to offer.

Tell us a little more about yourself
This year, I plan to run 15 races. #15in15. The BK half will be my 9th race 10K and above and 4th half marathon. I plan to close out the year with the Chicago Marathon and Toronto Half Marathon in October.

What excites you most about running your event with Team for Kids?
I am most excited about the cheering crowds and running for a cause bigger than myself in a borough of NYC that I haven’t really had the opportunity to explore.

Connect with Ashlee on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Member Spotlight: Joan Wharf Higgins

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What event are you running with Team for Kids?
The Airbnb Brooklyn Half!

What is your favorite place to run and why?
I love New York, for sure, but don’t often get there (I have completed 4 NYC marathons and will be at the starting line again in 2015). I love Boston because I used to live there growing up (in Newton), and my parents would take my sister and I to Heartbreak Hill to watch runners go by each Patriot’s day. I ran Boston in 2013 and finished 6 minutes before the bombs went off; my sister and husband were at the finish line directly across from the second bomb. I qualified for Boston in 2016 and plan on going back to show my support. I currently live in a great part of the world: on the west coast of Canada in moderate temperatures where running is a year-round activity. Running close to the ocean and on trails, we are privileged.

If you run with music, what are your favorite artists or songs to listen to?
I update my ipod to include contemporary hits, but always, always listen to Springsteen!

What is your favorite post-run meal?
First, a coffee and something sweet. Then, wine and something salty!

When did your relationship with running begin and why?
I ran cross-country in middle and high school, but really fell in love with running during my undergraduate years at university. Running gave a sense of freedom and control, and you can just lace up and go – no membership to buy or court to book.

Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions, if so, please explain?
Just to eat lightly and hydrate. Right before the race begins, we do an ‘active warm up’ and a bit of stretching.

Why did you choose to run this event?
We have never officially run in Brooklyn (other than as one of the boroughs in the marathon), so we are looking forward to getting to know Brooklyn better, and really excited about finishing on Coney Island. The opportunity to run for charity that wasn’t overly demanding was also attractive. Because of my volunteer work with KidSport, I do spend a lot of time already fundraising for local efforts.

Tell us a little more about yourself
I am a professor at the University of Victoria in Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education. I have run 26 marathons and countless halves. I don’t have a life-threatening disease nor overcome any financial or social barriers; I have a charmed life and cannot claim that running has saved me from any disadvantage. I do know that running can do this for others less fortunate than myself, so I am happy to be an ambassador for life-long physical activity. See you on Saturday, May 16th!

What excites you most about running your event with Team for Kids?
In Victoria, BC Canada where I live, I volunteer for KidSport Victoria which raises and distributes money for kids to participate in sport and physical activity who otherwise might not be able to afford to do so. Team for Kids has much in common with KidSport, and so it’s rewarding to contribute to an organization with a similar mission and purpose, even if it’s on the other side of the coast and in a different country 🙂

#ReasonsToRun: Inspire a Healthy Generation of Runners

Team for Kids runners raise critical funds to help NYRR provide free youth programs to more than 200,000 kids around the nation. Our TFK staff was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit a local site and observe one of these programs in action. Nutrition coach, Sia Pickett, led a class for 30 Young Runners and taught the students how nutrition can play a major role in becoming a successful runner and healthy person. She provided insight on how to make nutritious smoothies and healthy decisions at the grocery store. It was an amazing class and the students left feeling inspired and eager to share what they learned.


For more information on how to support NYRR youth programs and sign up to run with Team for Kids visit: https://runwithtfk.org/

Share your reasons to run by using #ReasonsToRun and tagging Team for Kids in your post on Facebook and @TeamforKids on Instagram or Twitter. You can also email us a photo and your reason to run at teamforkids@nyrr.org with #ReasonsToRun in the subject line for a chance to be featured.

Member Spotlight: Sandra Garcia

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What event are you running with Team for Kids?
I am running the Airbnb Brooklyn Half with Team for Kids this year. Last year, I ran the NYC Half which was my first half with TFK.

What is your favorite place to run and why?
I LOVE running through Central Park. I live in Harlem on 148th street so I usually run down 8th Ave to 110th street where I enter the park. Once in the park, I pick up the pace and get competitive by challenging myself to pass runners in front of me or to keep up with people passing me. I particularly love running through the park during spring and summer because the park is bustling with people enjoying what I call my NYC backyard. Since I run several NYRR races throughout the year, running the park has also helped me get familiar with the uphill and downhill that exists throughout the park.

If you run with music, what are your favorite artists or songs to listen to?
I listen to party music when I run because it keeps my pace going. A lot of party remixes.

What is your favorite post-run meal?
After a run, I enjoy a mango protein shake.

When did your relationship with running begin and why?
I started running in middle school via the NYRR Foundation. It was one of extracurricular activities while I was at the Family Academy. I went on and joined the track team in high school and also ran my first year of college. As an adult, I now run to stay in shape and challenge myself by trying to beat my race times.

Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions, if so, please explain?
Not really, but I have noticed I am most definitely a warm weather runner. I always run my fastest and strongest races when the sun is out and high.

Why did you choose to run this event?
After hearing all the buzz around the Brooklyn Half last year, I went to sign up and it was sold out! I made it a point to sign up for the race this year as soon as registration opened. Living in Manhattan I also rarely run outside of my Central Park comfort zone, so I am looking forward to venturing out and running the streets of BK!

Tell us a little more about yourself
I am a native New Yorker by way of Honduras, Central America. Professionally, I am Manager of Digital Marketing and Product Marketing at Time Warner Cable Media. During my personal time, I love to travel. This year I have trips to Curacao, France, and Switzerland in addition to smaller trips in between. My plan is to go out for a run during each of these trips to earn Nike+ badges haha.

What excites you most about running your event with Team for Kids?
Running for Team for Kids is personal for me because I see it as my way to give back to the organization that introduced me to running. By supporting Team for Kids, I can indirectly also inspire the love for running as well as health and fitness in general in New York City student athletes like myself.

Connect with Sandra on Linkedin and Instagram

Member Spotlight: Alice Melnic

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What event are you running with Team for Kids?
The 2015 Airbnb Brooklyn Half!

What is your favorite place to run and why?
It’s the streets of NY. They give me so much positive energy and motivation. They make you feel you’re invincible. I feel I’m more alive than ever after a run in the city.

If you run with music, what are your favorite artists or songs to listen to?
I used to always run with music before, but haven’t listened to music since moving to NYC. I like to hear the noise of the city, the people, the streets, the other runners next to me, the pacers motivating us, the crowd’s support during a race. That’s the best music ever 🙂

What is your favorite post-run meal?
A protein shake: one banana, berries, almonds, chia seeds, protein powder and almond milk.

When did your relationship with running begin and why?
My first run was in 2010. It was summer and I didn’t want stay inside in a gym, so I just went for a run on the beach. It felt great and I became addicted ever since.

Running became something more for me in 2011, after a few family tragedies. Running took me out of the depression I was in and gave a new meaning to my life. That’s when I started running in races and looking for running groups.

Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions, if so, please explain?
I don’t have any superstitions, but maybe some rituals. The evening before my run I get all my equipment ready: bib, shoes, and race nutrition. Two hours before the race I eat one banana and 2 energy bars then I’m ready to go 🙂

Why did you choose to run this event?
This is going to be my first time running the Airbnb Brooklyn Half and I’m so excited. I’ve heard so many people in the running community talking about this race and that it’s “a must” if you are a runner in the city.

Tell us a little more about yourself
I moved to NY a year and a half ago and my first goal was to qualify for the TCS New York City Marathon. And it happened! I’m going to run my first marathon in the greatest city in the world and I’m already counting down the days.  I’m building my own business right now and trying to take advantage of everything NYC has to offer. I’m really looking forward to run the Airbnb Brooklyn Half with TFK and training together with other TFK runners and coaches!

What excites you most about running your event with Team for Kids?
TFK is a great cause. The fact that Team for Kids runners are encouraging so many kids and schools to take up running is very motivating. I wish I could have started running earlier, but there were no running events in my city when I was little and people weren’t very educated about the importance of sport in the lives of our youth.