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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Ridgecrest’s fun run encourages fitness and raises funds for after-school academic support

Oct 04, 2021 11:17AM ● By Julie Slama

A night under the stars for new Ridgecrest assistant principal Sara Allen and PTA President Carrie Christensen was the incentive if students reached their $15,000 fundraising goal—and they did. (Photo courtesy of Julie Winfree/Ridgecrest Elementary)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

It was an event of firsts for Ridgecrest Elementary’s new assistant principal, Sara Allen.

This was the first time she helped coordinate the elementary school’s fun run, the first time she saw students excited to run for funds for their school, and the first time she would be sleeping on the school roof as a result of students not only meeting, but exceeding, their fundraising goal.

“It was a fantastic event to be a part of,” she said. “It was a big event, but it was so much fun.”

About 530 kindergarten through fifth-grade students ran through the neighborhood, each starting with their grade level following a Cottonwood Heights police officer.  Kindergartners ran about a 1/3-mile loop, while others raced one mile throughout the neighborhood. Other police officers blocked traffic on streets and followed behind to ensure everyone made it back to campus safely, Allen said.

“They did a great job,” she said. 

Joining the students in their running shoes were teachers, parents and other family members who took part in the community fundraiser.

Allen said that there were multiple goals in line with the fun run.  

One focus was encouraging physical activity. With the help of the Playworks coach who oversees physical fitness, students prepared for the race beforehand. A teacher gathered new or gently used shoes to have proper footwear available in case students needed athletic shoes or forgot a pair and a parent volunteered to lead students in warm-up stretches before the fun run, Allen said.

The school mascot, Reggie, was there to give kids high fives at the end of their run.

“The kids would see him, and they would just turn on their last burst of speed and race to him. It was adorable,” Allen said.

A second part of the event was to encourage all students to participate by returning the fundraising envelopes—even if no money was collected. Grades that had at least 90% participating could win a grade-level party, which could range from a karaoke or dance party to a popsicle or PJ party, she said.

Thirdly, daily activities also encouraged contributions, such as participating in a parent-led drop-in yoga class for a donation or students donating loose change and the students bringing in the most money per grade level—third grade—won a sno-cone party.

Then, lastly, local businesses were part of the community event, contributing prizes such as store or restaurant gift cards and gift certificates to places such as a trampoline park or a race car track. Students who brought in the most donations would be awarded one of those donations for their hard work, Allen said.

The student body surpassed the $15,000 goal with a total of $21,824 collected, Allen said, adding that the generosity was appreciated since last year’s run was not held because of the pandemic.

“We had many businesses sponsor students, or we put out the option they could sponsor the fun run and put their name on a banner or on the back of our T-shirts, which every student received,” she said. “We had so many generous donations by businesses.”

That also included local companies, such as Les Schwab, donating water, and area grocery stores providing snacks to the students after the run.

The funds are earmarked partly for PTA to sponsor activities such as holiday class parties, Reflections, Red Ribbon Week, field trips, Chinese New Year celebration and others as well as to focus on reading and math with students, after school during 50-minute periods, starting in October.

“It’s going to help us fund our after-school program,” Allen said. “Especially with our strange year with COVID last year, we’re going to help close the reading and math gaps by paying our teachers a little extra to stay after school and work with some of our students. The teachers will strategically invite students that are missing or just need more practice on skills because maybe they didn’t quite get it during that strange year. So, we’re hoping this will help fill the gaps so we can keep them moving forward.”

And if all those incentives weren’t enough, Allen and PTA President Carrie Christensen promised to sleep on Ridgecrest Elementary’s roof if students met the fundraising goal. 

“We want to celebrate with them because what they’ve done is pretty impressive,” Allen said, who before this year was an administrator at Butler Middle School. “I’m just getting started here at elementary, and it’s been so much fun interacting with the younger ages. Something like sleeping on the roof is so exciting that I don’t know how you can’t be excited about it.”