When physical education teacher Ann Paulson of Painted Sky Elementary School started the Miler’s Club 10 years ago, she was hoping to spread the importance of fitness and health to students and the community. Since that day, her vision has become an ever-growing reality.
What started as a one-person operation comprised of a handful of participants, the club has since evolved into one that now attracts 150-200 members every Tuesday and Thursday before school.
While the club focuses largely on students between the third and fifth grade, Paulson encourages participation from other grade levels, and from the community.
The program has attracted teachers, parents, and even the Oro Valley Police Department.
“In just three years, the club had gotten so big that I needed help,” said Paulson.
Her request has been answered. In total, between 25 and 30 volunteers help in setting up the course and processing paperwork each week. Many of these volunteers also participate in the fitness course, offering them a chance to socialize while getting some exercise.
There seems to be no lack of enthusiasm on the part of the students either, as many of them raced to the starting line, excited to begin the course. Paulson gave the go ahead, and the Milers were off.
“Some will walk, some will run, and some will do a little of both. The important thing is that they are being active. They are given the opportunity to see that life-long fitness stays with them, and that bonds can be made by doing so,” said Paulson.
Many of these bonds were evident as friends took on the course side-by-side. Afterward, a wave of excitement was in the air, with students laughing, chatting and flexing their muscles.
While the students choose their pace for the course, there is a reward for those willing to work the hardest. For every 10 miles a student finishes, they receive a bracelet token. If a student reaches 50 miles for the year, they are automatically eligible for another perk offered by officer, Wendy Davis, of the Oro Valley Police Department.
Davis, in her third year with the Miler’s Club, treats these particular students to a free breakfast, a tour of the Oro Valley Police Department and a chance to meet the K-9 unit.
Any student who beats Davis’ total mileage for the year will also receive a shirt stating, “I outran the cops at Miler’s Club”.
Last year, a few students accomplished just that, averaging between 100-120 miles for the year.
“It’s a great program because it keeps kids involved in something, and out of trouble,” said Davis.
Parent volunteer, Stephanie Cannon, understands the value of keeping children physically active, and has organized an additional fitness option: “The Thunderbird Trot,” a five-mile course is available each April to students, parents, teachers, and the community.
This year the event takes place on April 14, and many of the Miler’s Club members are expected to participate.