From back left: Ron Ameloot, Karen Eddleston, Dana Haggith, Lee Foster, Wendy Vercauteren, Teena Hubert, Joe Perry. From bottom left: Jason Walter, Mark Childs, Leon Roegiest, Kevin O’Connor (Submitted photo)

Special to the Sydenham Current

The Defiance Youth Challenge was inspired by teacher Kara Lubin, who implemented a similar program in California, called The 100 Mile Club.

Our challenge encourages children to walk or run each school day, weather permitting, during our eight week program.

In 2013, and 2014, our program ran in the fall.

For the 2015-2016 school year, our program was moved to the spring to coincide with the track and field days offered at all area schools.

The program is free to all students, and all participants receive a Defiance Diploma at the end of the program.

This, effective, in-school walk/run program can be modified to fit the need of any child.

The program is fun and will introduce a healthy lifestyle to children who may not, otherwise, have such an opportunity.

A study, just released out of McMaster University, of about 500 Hamilton students shows a clear connection between better fitness levels and better school performance.

Whether it was reading, writing or mathematics, children in the highest fitness level had significantly higher grades than children in the least-fit category.

The difference was about one partial grade mark, equal to, say, a B improving to a B+, for example.

In 2017, our youth program evolved into a youth pilot project titled, “Running for Reading.”

This new project was limited to three schools, which were H.W. Burgess, Christ the King, and the Wallaceburg Christian School.

In this new program, students were paid $0.25 per kilometre to run or walk for the 8 week program.

Money raised was used to purchase books at the participating schools.

In 2018, our program expanded to 11 schools in two counties.

Children were now paid $0.15 per kilometre and the program raised $6,000 for book purchases.

This year, our youth program expanded to 19 schools.

A meeting with Mayor Canniff led to a large private donation to our program.

That, combined with our fundraising efforts and a donation from the Wallaceburg Sports Hall of Fame, secured ample funding for the program to expand.

Fundraising efforts are already underway to support further expansion in 2020.

The goal is to have our program in every school in Chatham-Kent as well as a dozen schools in Lambton County.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, student’s have ran 192,208 kilometres.

This spring set a record, with students achieving 83,000 kilometres in a mere eight weeks, raising over $12,000 for the purchase of books at 19 schools.

One large school in Sarnia is sponsored by Noelle’s Gift, a non-profit organization in Sarnia.

Headed by Lynn Paquette, Noelle’s mother, Noelle’s Gift is instrumental in assisting many programs operating in the Sarnia area.

As an added bonus, the top two students at each school receive a $50.00 cash prize and an Oustanding Achievement Award.

The Defiance Youth Program is operated by the Defiance Running Club, a group of like-minded individuals who love to run.