Around 90 kids and teens took to the track at McClellan Magnet High School on Friday, Feb. 22, to complete their final mile of the Little Rock Parks and Recreation’s Therapeutic Recreation “Little Rockers” walking program.
In its fifth year, the program, which is part of the Little Rock Marathon, is for students in grades K-12 with disabilities. Schools sign up for the program in early November and kids start accumulating walking miles, said Sherrie Shinn, therapeutic recreation coordinator at Little Rock Parks and Recreation.
The goal is that all students complete 25.2 miles of the marathon individually or with their schools, and everyone walks the last marathon-mile together, she said. Those who completed the last mile received medals and T-shirts. Shinn said she’s heard that students are so proud of completing the marathon that they wear their medals to school for weeks afterwards.
“It’s a huge, prideful thing for them,” Shinn said. “They hear about the Little Rock Marathon, and being part of this community event is something to be proud of.”
Though the final-mile “race” was noncompetitive and untimed, someone has to cross the finish line first. And, that first-place finisher was 9-year-old Couryion McFadden, 9, a student at the Arkansas School for the Deaf, which took part in the event for the first time this year.
With a big smile, McFadden said it was a good race and he was very happy to have finished first. A few of his teammates, 10-year-old David Parker and 11-year-old Andrew Canu, were also excited and proud to have completed the marathon. The ASD team was led by Coach Jon Parker.
Brianna Jordan, 14, a student at Benton Junior High, also took part in the program for the first time this year. She said she enjoyed training for several months at school and she was happy to have completed all 26.2 miles.
“I’m really excited. It made me feel really good,” she said.
Mom Barbara Saunders said she was proud of her 8-year-old son, Will, a student at Crestwood Elementary in North Little Rock, for taking part in the program, and finishing the last mile despite the cold weather.
“He loves being active,” she said, explaining that healthy lifestyles are important in her family.
Shinn said her office reaches out to local schools to get them involved in the walking program, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive because teachers are interested in finding ways to get kids active. This year, students came from schools and homeschools all over central Arkansas.
“We want to make exercise fun, and this is a great way to do that,” Shinn said, adding that organizers of the Little Rock Marathon have been supportive at every step.