BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — When the first White-house Primary 5K debuted in April 2007, runners of all ages gathered at the starting line in front of the now-demolished 1932 building.
During the second annual run, in 2008, principal Brad Rhodes good-naturedly challenged his students to keep up with him in the run. Second-grader Luke Feck and fourth-grader Nathan Moore were able to keep up.
In all, 225 youths and adults participated in that second race, which raised more than $5,000 to purchase playground equipment.
On Saturday, April 15, Whitehouse Parents Club (WPC) will host its 15th annual 5K and Fun Run at the school. The 5K was skipped in 2020 and 2021. Rhodes credits the leadership of the WPC for keeping the tradition alive.
“While the committee chairs have transitioned over the years, the leadership of the WPC has always felt that continuing the event was important for our school and community,” Rhodes said.
The idea came out of a Health and Wellness Committee, which had a mission of promoting ways for students and staff to keep moving and making healthy lifestyle choices.
Linda Herman, who was a physical education teacher before retiring in 2008, said the playground quickly became a priority for the WPC as well, and she agreed.
“The playground is a place where kids can let off their energy so they can come back to the classroom and learn. It’s an important part of the day. They need physical movement,” Herman said.
As a phys ed teacher, Herman could see that students needed to learn how to pace themselves for longer runs.
“They know how to sprint. They run as fast as they can and then fall on the ground, so we have to teach pace,” she said.
The first 5K and 1K fun run included a carnival in the back. WPC organizers Lori Schadewald and Lori Yoder enlisted parent volunteers to help with the event.
Rhodes said he enjoys seeing all the parents and community members come together to support and encourage the children as they participate in the 1K fun run.
“Every year, the 1K course is lined with adults encouraging our students,” he said. “I also enjoy seeing former students and their families come back to participate in the event.”
Rachel Rardin, who is organizing this year’s event with fellow WPC members Nikki Stotz and Mandy Tilton, enjoyed running in the event before she had children. With a first-grader and a preschooler, she sees the significance of the event and not just for the funds.
“It gets the kindergartners saying, ‘That was fun. I want to do it more.’ They see that running can be fun, not just for competition. It’s a way to model exercise for kids,” she said.
“This gets the community involved with the staff and the students, even if they just want to walk. And you get a cool shirt!”
Before that first race in 2007, WPC often relied on students selling items like wrapping paper to family and friends. A survey showed that parents preferred other fundraising methods.
The WPC now relies on events like the 5K and Dine Out Nights – where a percentage of meal purchases at local restaurants come back to the school – to fund activities and equipment for the school.
Last month’s STEM Night showcased some of the new sensory kinetic learning tools that are used in classrooms during free time or while working through a problem.
“Anything the teachers can come up with – there’s always new ways to engage the students,” Rardin said.
When students returned to school full time after the pandemic, the WPC was able to purchase spirit T-shirts for every child.
“Not everyone can afford to pay for a shirt, so this made sure every student had one,” she said.
The WPC also hosts events including dances for fathers and daughters and moms and sons, Breakfast With a Buddy, Read-A-Thon, Secret Santa, movie nights and the fourth-grade send-off. Volunteers are always needed for these events, she noted.
“It’s a nice way to get involved with the school and find ways to benefit the kids,” she said.
She thanked the White-house police and fire departments for staffing the intersections to make sure everyone is running safely in the 5K.
Many of the runners don’t have ties to Whitehouse Primary School, noted Matt Folk, owner of Second Sole, which is sponsoring the race. Second Sole hosts a group run every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Folk knows a few of the group members plan to be a part of it.
“Adults like to do some sort of shorter tune-up to sharpen up before the event. The one nice thing is that this year it’s just a week before the Glass City Marathon,” Folk said.
Superintendent Dr. Jim Fritz ran in last year’s race, just prior to running in the Boston Marathon. He’s not always been able to attend, but when he does, Fritz notes that it’s a great way to get together with staff, students and parents in all kinds of weather.
“I encourage our community to join the walkers, joggers and runners to enjoy the day and help support the Whitehouse students,” he said.
The race begins at the school, at 6510 Texas St., at 8:30 a.m. for the 5K run/walk and 9:30 a.m. for the kids fun run. Race day registration opens at 7:30 a.m.
Awards will be given for overall male and female, overall master (40-plus) male and female, grand masters (50-plus) and for age groups. The WPC also has many door prizes available.
The day-of-race cost is $30.00 with shirt (if available) or $25.00 without the shirt for the 5K and $15.00 and $10.00 for the 1K. For more information, visit runsignup.com and look for Whitehouse Primary 5K.