Life and Religion
|Let Me Run club sprints to support boys with mentoring|
|Afterschool program includes 5K race on May 19|
|Published Thursday, May 3, 2018 6:26 pm|
Kids need to be taught to express themselves in an uplifting way.
Enter Let Me Run, an afterschool program for preteen and teen boys that began in Charlotte in 2009. Their season culminates with a 5K on May 19 at Whitehall Business Park.
“They passed out a paper when I was in second grade, and I didn’t get to do it,” said Kingston, a Billingsville Elementary School fourth-grader. “I wanted to do it, because I like to run. I do it all the time in school. We learn life lessons.”
Said D.J., a Billingsville fifth-grader: “I like Let Me Run, because it actually gives me a challenge with the 5K. I like how we get to practice, and get better every practice.”
Billingsville represents one of 101 teams in the Charlotte area.
“Let Me Run offers the kids a healthy outlet, and when they go home, they may not be afforded such opportunities.”” said first-year coach Darius Moore, a member of Black Men Run Charlotte.
Programs like Let Me Run, which has spread to 29 states, did not exist when Moore was growing up on Tuckaseegee Road.
“I’m a native, and that’s rare, but I wasn’t afforded certain opportunities,” Moore said. “Let Me Run wasn’t around. All we really had was if we had friends that we trusted in the neighborhood to play with. Some of my friends weren’t fortunate to have that. It’s good that we have Let Me Run to give that to the elementary school students, as well as some of the middle school students.”
In addition to Moore, other members of Black Men Run volunteer or coach with Let Me Run at schools such as Long Creek Elementary School and Dorothy J. Vaughn Academy of Technology.
“I feel like they need to see it, so that they know that there are other opportunities to get out of certain situations,” Moore said. “They can’t help being in certain places. They can’t help having certain guardians in place—just certain circumstances. An outlet like a marathon race, to see that someone who looks like you can keep their body in motion for up to two hours and three hours, is really an accomplishment. They may not see that when they cut on the TV and it’s just basketball, it’s just football, it’s just this limited amount of information that’s being fed to them.”
A major component of Let Me Run comes from positive affirmation, starting at the beginning of the season to the final stride.
“I like to be able to run around Charlotte, Moore said. “I don’t like to necessarily run on a track or a treadmill, because I like to give that exposure. I like that people see me and say, ‘man, he’s out there running in the rain. What’s my excuse? He’s out there running after working 12 hours. What’s my excuse?’ I feel like people need that, and they can look at that as an example. Especially for the kids. They may come home, and not have that reassurance that, ‘man, I can go do this,’ but you can come and hang with coach Moore, and he’s out here doing it, and he’s got kids at home, and he’s able to make that happen.’ I feel like it’s necessary.”
Urban Promise, a nonprofit afterschool program for at-risk students, collaborates with Let Me Run to provide teams at each other their three sites in the area.
Organizations like the Charlotte Women’s Club fund teams: seven in the 2017-18 school year.
Let Me Run utilizes the physical aspects of running as what Greater Charlotte Regional Director Jay Seago calls “character building.” Each of 14 practices in a seven-week season begins with words to live by. Practices consist of a unity lap, dynamic stretches—all of which are named after animals—a time- and/or distance-based run, strength component, static stretch, and a lesson.
“It’s basically the theme of the day, for instance, ‘be yourself, everybody else is taken,’” Seago said. “The lesson is going to be hands-on activity. They might be mixing together vinegar and baking soda to express what happens when you hold in your emotions. They might be squeezing toothpaste out of a tube and trying to get it back in to show how hard it is to get stuff that we’ve said back, when we say things when we’re angry. Just different kinds of ways for them to remember ‘toothpaste, toothpaste, I’ve got to keep my mouth closed.’ We finish up with a positive statement card.”
At the end of the season, each runner receivers an envelope with encouraging words from his teammates, reminding them of their mantra; ‘Let me be me, let me reach out, let me run.”
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