Kids Run Canada (www.kidsrun.ca)
Kids Run Canada (KRC) is an organization founded in 2013 with the vision of getting youth outside playing, though participating in trail-running. KRC offers a summer-long series of trail-running events for youth in central and southern Alberta. The series encourages youth to be active and explore the outside world. KRC offers continual promotion of activity and exploration by hosting five events, one per month between May and September. The events for 2015 and 2016 are located in Sikome Lake, Calgary; Canmore Nordic Centre, Canmore; Glenbow Ranch, Cochrane; Fish Creek Park, Calgary; and Canmore Nordic Centre, Canmore. The season ends with a Provincial Championship event, in which all youth are invited to join in a yearend celebration of play and outdoor exploration.
KRC focuses broadly on developing and strengthening community, and fostering connection with and respect for self, others and the environment. Being free to play and run in the hills is the shared expression of this pursuit. KRC attempts to accomplish these goals by bringing together families in a positive and celebratory fashion. Each KRC event includes 1K and 3K courses that travel through forests and parks of central and southern Alberta. Parents are welcomed but not required to participate with their youth. The youth enhance their physical skill, physical literacy, are introduced to local and native ecosystems, socialize with other youth, and build confidence and independence during their time on the trail together. The events provide an opportunity for the youth and their families to come together and create and strengthen friendships, and learn about and experience the natural world near their home.
It is our long-term goal that KRC can grow to become a sustainable and yearly offering to youth and families in southern and central Alberta.
Who Will it Benefit?
The primary beneficiaries of KRC are the youth that participate. I work as a scientist and researcher at the University of Calgary, in addition to being the founder and Executive Director of KRC. My research focuses on the role and impact of play, activity, and natural spaces on childhood. My work to date demonstrates that there is a clear and undeniable strong link between the two. Spending time in play in natural spaces leads to a myriad positive outcomes for childhood development and well-being. Children are more physically active, have reduced risk of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Children have increased attention and focus, decreased aggression, decreased rates of depression, anxiety, and ADD/ADHD. Children develop increased creativity, cooperation, problem-solving abilities, socializing skills, and stronger friendships. These benefits have long-term consequences. Children that spend time playing in nature have better health outcomes throughout their adolescence and into adulthood. KRC offers an opportunity to build healthy children, families, community, and environment.
The parents and families of the youth that participate in KRC also benefit from the program. Accompanying parents and other family members are able to relax, watch and celebrate the youth as they finish their run. Those parents that accompany their children on the course have the added benefit of spending time being active together in nature – an experience that benefits both parent and child.
Finally, it is a long-term goal of KRC that participation in KRC will encourage the youth to be stewards of their home environment. Having positive experiences in nature as a youth has been documented to translate into adults that are more strongly and consistently engaged in actively taking care of the natural world around them.