Kicks for Kids rewards students with more than new shoes

For Tulsa youth participating in Kicks for Kids, training to complete a 5K race was about more than crossing the finish line.

The students also learned confidence, goal setting and received a new pair of running shoes.

Kicks for Kids is a nonprofit program of the Williams Route 66 Marathon that aims to encourage health and wellness for disadvantaged Tulsa youth. Students train with mentors and then participate together in the annual 5K during the marathon weekend.

“I practiced really hard and learned that whatever you believe, you can achieve,” said Nathalia, 9, a student at Sequoyah Elementary School.

She said when it was hard walking up a hill, hearing encouragement of ‘you can do it’ kept her going and she ran on the way down.

Alexis Davis, a teacher at Sequoyah Elementary School, said students started with no idea of the distance they’d train to run. Some thought 5K was a hundred miles, while others thought it was one lap around a track.

“I said it’s not that bad. You’re going to love it. Once you do your first one, you’re never going to stop,” she said. “And it was awesome. They loved it, and it was nice seeing that come alive.”

Students who completed the training program were rewarded with a new pair of running shoes.

“When we gave them their shoes, their faces lit up,” Davis said. “One girl even asked, ‘Do we have to give them back after the race?’ That was just a real eye-opener because it may be something they’d never gotten before. I was excited for them and had made sure they got a half size up so that it could last them a little bit longer.”

Williams employee Sarah Gilpin was a mentor to the Sequoyah students, training with them for weeks before the November race.

“This was a great experience for me seeing them grow and become confident in themselves,” she said. “Whether we were walking, whether we were running, it didn’t matter. They were having a great time.”

Kicks for Kids is a catalyst for positive change, fostering health, wellness and a sense of accomplishment in the lives of Tulsa’s youth, said Destiny Green, executive director of the Route 66 marathon.

“Kicks for Kids is not just about running a 5K but about building relationships and being a steady source of inspiration and guidance for these young kids,” she said.