We Run This City is a program partnership between the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and the Case Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods. Established in 2006 with just seven participating schools and 81, sixth grade runners, the program has grown to 40 schools and over 1000 recruits in recent years and serves students grades six through 12.
The Sports Matter Program is designed to raise awareness about the severe cuts to youth sports programs that have been occurring in this country. From 2009 to 2011, $ 3.5 billion was cut from school sports budgets, with an estimated 60% of children now paying a fee to play sports. Budget cuts have been most severe in low-income areas. Through its Sports Matter Program, the DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation will raise awareness about the youth sports crisis and will match community donations across the country up to $ 2 million.
A unique aspect of the Sports Matter Program is that uses a new crowd-funding platform to help local programs like We Run This City raise funds from new supporters. The Sports Matter Program will provide the Y’s We Run This City program with fundraising capacity building, including a customized crowd-funding toolkit and one-on-one tutoring sessions on crowd-funding. Additionally, Sports Matter will cover all transaction fees associated with online donations, ensuring that 100% of donations made will go directly to the Y’s We Run This City program provided it meets its fundraising challenge.
The Y’s We Run This City program was selected both on the basis of its high caliber programing and because it has seen a 20% budget cut in the last year, forcing it to cut back on the number of student runners it can serve this year. Recognized in February as the “Youth Program of the Year” by Running USA at their annual conference in San Diego, the program has nonetheless been struggling to keep up with demand for its services. While the original program model saw sixth grade students accrue 25 training miles with their school teams and then finish their “marathons” with a 1.2 mile run at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, over Reserve University’s the past eight years, the program has grown up along with its participants. It now serves youth in grades six-12 and runners participate in events ranging from the original 1.2 mile run to the 10k and half marathon. This year marks the third year that We Run This City student runners will also participate in the full marathon, with five youth training to complete 26.2 miles on race day.
The We Run This City program is both an important community response to the health risks associated with childhood physical inactivity and a significant youth Resilience program. Since 2008, the Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods at Case Western School of Medicine has been documenting how We Run This City is benefiting program participants. Collecting and analyzing basic health and fitness data like height, weight, BMI’s, blood pressure levels, flexibility, strength and cardiovascular fitness, students are assessed both at the start of the conditioning period and again post-race. Students also complete extensive pre-conditioning period and post-race questionnaires which explore attitudes toward physical activity and healthy eating, intentions to become or continue to be physically active, program impact on screen time (i.e., TV, computer and game systems), sense of connectivity to their schools, friendships and the feeling of having supportive adult relationships in their lives. Consistently, the program has reduced the rates of hypertension and pre-hypertension by 50% or more over the 12-14 week program. Post-race survey results also reveal that WRTC participants complete the program with an increased understanding of the importance of adopting healthy lifestyles built around regular physical activity and healthy eating.
Program funding support over the last 9 years has been generously provided by the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation; The Breakfast Club; the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention/Racial & Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Program; The Cleveland Foundation (Medical Mutual); Kaiser Permanente; The Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation; The William J. and Dorothy K. O'Neill Foundation; The St. Luke’s Foundation; Sherwin Williams; The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland; as well as generous personal contributions. In-kind, corporate and institutional support has been provided by Active Runner; Chobani; Cleveland Running Company; Cleveland West Road Runners Club; Cleveland State University; Dairymen’s; Hermes; National Institute of Health-funded Impact Study collaboration between University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University; Panera; Second Sole; and Vertical Runner.
For further information, call Senior Program Director Tara Taylor at 216-268-6298, or email her at email@example.com.