The Small Strides program at the East Lycoming YMCA is building self confidence in children through running. The program teaches children how to become runners, so that they will be able to run a 5K on April 12. Parents have the option to patriciate in the program with their child, so that they both can reach the finish line together.
The program is eight weeks long and starts with teaching the students the form fundamentals of running. They then gradually learn to go from walking to being able to run short distances - all working up to long distance runs.
Some of the practices also include: pilates, spinning, circuit training and doing workouts in the pool. All these exercises help prepare their bodies to be able to run and also builds their self confidence with each task they complete.
Students and mentors in the Small Strides program prepare to run a 5K on April 12 by learning the fundamentals of running and gradually working their way up to the 5K.
Henry Giordano, Small Strides mentor and intern at Penn College; and TJ Arnold, 11, run two miles at practice to prepare for a 5K.
Participants learn the fundamentals of good running form, proper breathing, hydration, flexibility, foot strike, arm positioning and nutrition, said Buffy Basile, coach.
Basile, also known as "coach Buffy," started the Small Strides program in 2011. She had a passion for running since a young age, and it helped her get through some tough times in her life.
"I loved the personal connection to the earth and my surroundings," said Basile, "It provided such mental clarity during chaotic periods of my life. It allowed me to not only release my feelings, but to spend time within myself.
Since the program started in 2011, more than 120 children and 50 adults, that include grandparents, parents and babysitters, have completed the program.
"I think the program is really good and it prepares people to do 5Ks," said TJ Arnold, 11, and student of the program.
Each class starts off with everyone gathering in the gym for roll call, then going to their program for the day. The day the Sun-Gazette visited the program, the class was completing a two mile run. They started out as a group to stretch and warm up, then separated into different groups based on their running abilities. Each group was paired with a mentor, who ensures that no child is left behind during the run.
The mentors are all ages, shapes and sizes. Each one has their own story of growth and personal self esteem challenges life has presented them. Ultimately they are there to support and motivate, said Basile.
As the children and parents run through the track they are encouraged the whole way by the mentors, giving them tips to help with breathing and encouragement.
"I really like working with the children and seeing the results. When they start out, some of them have trouble running half a mile, but by the end of the program they are able to run 3.1 miles in the 5K. It's really exciting to see them progress," said Henry Giordano mentor and intern from Pennsylvania of Technology.
Once one group finishes their run, they stand along the side and cheer on the other groups who are still running. After the last person crosses the finish line they all came together for a chant to finish the practice.
On April 12, students of the program will participate in the 5K. Each year Basile personally runs every participant through the finish line.
"Watching their face as they cross a finish line that they have worked so hard for makes my heart smile," said Basile.