The desire in all of us to be valued and challenged, and how running can make that happen.
“Mrs. W., can you borrow me?”
I turn around to see a little five-year-old with glasses twisting in her chair to look back at me and make sure I heard her.
“Not til I’m done with Joey, Sophie” I reply. “Then I’ll be happy to “borrow you.” ”
As a Title 1 teacher’s aide in a rural public school I have lots of moments that tug at my heart. This one was a happy one as the children I had been working with really loved having one-on-one time with their teachers. They loved being “borrowed.”
I think I know the feeling – I think we all do.
Being singled out for attention that causes us to feel both valued and challenged is one of the best feelings in the world. It is also incredibly rare for most children, at least in most schools.
The benefits of being mentored are undeniable. We can all look back at our lives (hopefully) and think of someone who mentored us. Someone who listened and encouraged us, – who made us feel seen and heard.
The desire to connect kids with adults who will be that person in their life is being addressed by a heartening number of nonprofits and advocacy groups from Big Brothers, Big Sistersto Girls on the Run. It meets an obvious and growing need for our nation’s children. It is also why I have joined a new nonprofit that addresses this need called Team Long Run as their Director of Mission Development.
Team Long Run’s mission (http://www.teamlongrun.org/) is evident in their motto --“Every Kid Deserves a Coach.” I love that.
I think everyone agrees that every kid deserves a chance – a chance to succeed, a chance to reach their potential, a chance to give of themselves to others and the world – a chance to have a happy life . . .
In my work over the past year, I have seen the needs, as well as the potential, of the kids I work with. I have come to realize that “Every Kid Deserves a Coach” really means “Every Kid Deserves a Chance.”
Kids like the one who told me as I walked into the middle school classroom that nobody liked him and neither would I, and then turned out to be a talented young writer. Or the little girl who I knew was recently homeless who smiled the best smile ever in the history of smiles when I sat next to her on the floor during a yoga classroom break. The smile of a child who knew what hope, and a chance to have a better life, felt like. The smile of a child who could benefit from the right “coach”.
In the largest sense, a coach is someone who encourages you, who helps you meet your goals. They are the people in your life who inspire you, who metaphorically put their hand on your back as you are struggling up a steep hill, but who also know it is better for you to do things on your own, whenever you can, since that is what makes you strong.
Team Long Run seeks to connect kids who don’t have the benefit of a strong, healthy team experience (for a variety of reasons) with running mentors through an innovative program. You can read all about it on their website http://www.teamlongrun.org/ but as Chuck Wilcoxen (TLR's founder) often says, "Completing a difficult task is satisfying, joyful. Doing that every day is transformational."
We’re here to help kids who don’t have that opportunity.
Casey Powell Clark is helping us create a sustainable development plan, a.k.a. – fundraising. Other team members, Jake Meier and Chaz Wilcoxen, are ready to roll out the content on social media.
Soon, you will see the results of that work and that will be when you can help too! We are all doing this as volunteers (Chuck is the only paid employee) in order to keep Chuck free to do what he does best – bring the benefits of running to kids who don’t have access to running mentors.
From a group of kids at a youth center for students from immigrant families in Lewiston, Maine to students on the autism spectrum at local public schools in New Hampshire, to elementary school kids who can’t afford sneakers and so are unable to participate in P.E., he has been building a team of kids who are benefitting from his vision.
Kids who needed a coach – someone to believe in them and help them in practical ways.
That’s why I have come on board. I believe wholeheartedly in this mission and hope you will decide that this is something you, too, can support.
We would love your help in sending us ideas or kids who you think might benefit from this work, or adults you think might be terrific mentors.
For all you are doing to help others in your life, and for helping us make children feel “borrowed” through supporting Team Long Run, we thank you.
Director of Mission Development, Team Long Run
Other TLR members: Leonard Hatcher (Finance Committee Chair), Will Freeman (Team Member), David Wold (Team Member) Board of Directors: Sibylle and Dan Kinley, Jonathan Palmer, Hilary Harper-Wilcoxen, Chuck Wilcoxen.
P.S. If you can’t wait to donate to our team, by all means, send your check to Team Long Run P.O. Box 54, North Bridgton, ME 04057, or go onto our website and find our donate button. We'll spend it wisely and with the kids in mind, every dollar of the way.