One Port Arthur elementary school teacher is sharing her love of running with the students at her school. Coming up in March, the club will run their fourth 5k race at the Gusher Marathon.

The club is called Fit Club and 50 kids at Sam Houston Elementary are making strides toward their goals on the track and in the classroom.

When Amanda Dye first started at Sam Houston Elementary in Port Arthur, she was looking for ways outside the classroom to help her students. She told them she likes to run, so they gave her a table.  She says, "The next thing I knew I had 50 plus kids signed up."

With that great start, kids now meet at least once a week. Die says, the club focuses on team sports, cardiovascular, and strength endurance training and is part of the Kids Marathon Club with the Gusher Marathon and they keep track of the miles they run each practice.

Die says, "It's not so much a race as it is, can you cross the finish line?  We really encourage students, even if they don't think they can run, and they need to walk, it's okay as long as they keep moving forward."

Coast Guard mentors are there to help the kids keep moving forward. Die says the Coast Guard Mentors help the club raise funds, they've  made donations to support runners, they have picked them up and brought them to the races for the families that weren't able to do so and they have participated in the races with the students to help encourage them along way.

And with that extra encouragement, the students are not only learning about the mechanics of running. Die says, "I think it teaches them a lot about compassion and friendship because they do start a bond with these people. And they've been on this campus for two years and it's definitely been something that helps increase their motivation as well but it's not just me an educator you know it's a stranger from the Coast Guard in uniform you know that's encouraging them It definitely builds their self-esteem a whole lot."

Petty Officer, Mark Valdez mentors Carleton Solomon, or Little C, as he is called, and his three brothers. Valdez tells us, "I thought maybe I could reach them the same way I was reached when I was young."

Although "Little C" doesn't talk a lot, Valdez says he can tell he reaches him, he says, "When he gives you that look, and kind of like that turn of the head, alright I can see what your saying."

Solomon explains how his mentor helped him with running telling us, " He helped me run. And show me like when I run to breath through my nose and my mouth."

And the benefits of having the mentors and fit club are seen in the classroom too. Solomon says, "He helped me with math and reading."

Valdez says he sees a huge difference in Solomon's self confidence. He says, "He's definitely trying harder and with everything he does, not just with running. He refuses to stop."

That determination shows,  as Solomon  prepares for his second race coming up at the Gusher Marathon,  the Gusher 5K.

One hurdle the runners must jump over is the costs of the races. The club must come up with $500 to $600 each race.

Die explains how they've been able to raise funds so far, saying,  "Some of the parents had to pay, other times we've had sponsors that have chipped in. Teachers make donations to help sponsor kids. We also had someone sponsor our fitness team T-shirts. And we also did fundraising through a garage sale and through after school snack sales as well."

Dies says she thinks, all the hard work fundraising and training is setting the students up for a great finish,  "I think it's showing them that they can do it now even if they didn't want sure they're getting into beginning. At the end of it all they are emotional they are excited They are looking forward to the next race they are looking forward to the next practice And I definitely think that there are times where there's not always a bright light at the end of their day but for sure we have practice we have a good time and everybody goes home smiling."

Mrs. Die and the mentors are sure the lessons learned will help them as they continue their trek through life. She says, "I feel like they're learning that they could really teach their bodies to do what they wanted to do with some practice with training. And we really try to emphasize that you just do the best you can do every single time and will be better than you were the time before."

The fit club is trying to raise enough money by the end of February to send 25 kids to run in the Gusher 5K on March 8. 
     They currently have enough to send 14 students and five faculty.

For more information on the Kids Marathon Club, click on the link below.


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