Running is often viewed by outsiders as a solitary pursuit; a simplistic mode of exercise, escape, or stress-release. For many athletes at the GoreTex Trans-Rockies Run, however, their passion for trail racing serves as a means to augment other facets of their lives, as well as the lives of those in the greater community around them.
This August at the 2011 GTTRR we had a chance to sit down and chat with Nicholas Wickes and Stephen Major of Team Good for Kids. The team seemed relaxed and up-beat as they explained their mission following the grueling Stage 3 climb up and over Hope Pass .
“The Good for Kids Foundation works to empower underprivileged youth through summer camp programs, one-to-one coaching, and advisory services, we strive to help them discover, develop, and achieve their unique artistic and athletic abilities,” said Wickes from the dining table in the Leadville gym, “It is amazing how these kids, when given the opportunity to explore their physical and creatively capabilities, begin to realize their limitless potential.”
The Good for Kids Foundation, established in January 2006, was launched in an effort to remedy the impact of California’s ongoing budget cuts to sports and arts programs statewide. These programs, many believe, are fundamental to fostering self-confidence, creativity and problem solving skills that will help youths as they transform into productive adults.
Based in San Francisco, Good for Kids has worked with over 300 low-income youths, granting them an opportunity to pursue interests that would otherwise go undeveloped or unrealized.
Working primarily with 6th, 7th and 8th graders, Good for Kids seeks to make an impact during this highly impressionable time in a child’s life, when they are just beginning to understand their own abilities- but are highly susceptible to being drawn into dangerous lifestyles and situations if not presented more promising opportunities.
“If we are able to show them that they do have a choice at this crossroads, we can potentially help them focus their energy in the right direction,” explains Major.
Furthermore, by getting kids off the couch, the foundation seeks to nurture active, healthy and productive members of the community. Healthy living is an especially important theme when you consider that the Center for Disease Control estimates that individuals who are obese spend an average of $1300 per year for the rest of their life in extra health care costs.
Beginning their outreach by working alongside other local organizations, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, Good for Kids offers children the opportunity to attend 7-10 day summer camps. During this experience they are exposed to a range of sports, arts, and outdoor activities in a safe, professional, remote natural environment.
Next, the Good for Kids program works with those candidates who will benefit the most from further involvement, to provide individualized coaching and instruction. Those who qualify are awarded 1-to-1 coaching scholarships that include three hours of instruction per week, for 12 to 15 weeks. With the support of art and sports professionals in the local community, Good for Kids provides $1200 in tuition for a coach and access to the facility necessary for the scholarship recipients to further explore and develop their talents.
Graduates of the 1-to-1 coaching program are then afforded ongoing advisory services through high-school. The idea is that, by staying involved with the graduates activities and developing internships, apprenticeships, life-skills workshops, and other levels of commitment, Good for Kids will enable these youths to achieve their goals through their own ability and commitment, and empower them to use what they have learned, to enhance their own communities.
Success stories from the Good for Kids program include Ramahd, an aspiring artist, who won the Annual Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco Ernest Ingold Art Exhibition in 2010 and continues to take classes in digital art; Lachlan, an archer, who in 2009 joined the Junior Olympic Archery Development Team; and Lexus, a dancer and actress who won the 30th Annual Oratorical/Musical Contest presented by the SF Alliance of Black School Educators and starred in her school’s production of Beauty and the Beast.
Currently, all seven graduates from the Good for Kids program who are eligible to apply for college, have submitted applications. Another pertinent focus of the foundation as Department of Education studies show that college grads earn $23,000 more on average than those who do not receive higher education.
Team Good for Kids, competing in their second fundraising event together, is proud to be raising awareness for the cause, while challenging themselves and enjoying the camaraderie of the GoreTex Trans-Rockies Run community.
“Every day is different at this race,” said Wilkes, “Greeting those unknowns makes for a truly gratifying experience. By demonstrating our ability to follow our passion and overcome obstacles, we seek to inspire those kids who are confronting challenges in their own lives.”
“The TransRockies is such a well produced and supported event- and what an incomparable landscape,” stated Major, “In the future we hope to bring some of the Good for Kids graduates here to participate in the event as well.”