GREENVILLE — It’s seldom easy to find the words “fun” and “healthy” fitting together during one single activity, unless, that is, you can find a way to create an activity such as one that exercises the body while bringing hundreds of students, friends and family members together for a good cause.
On Saturday, the second annual Baldwin Heights Elementary School “Walk-A-Thon” accomplished just that.
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., students — many joined by family and friends — walked along the athletic track at Greenville High School to collect pledges and donations while walking lap after lap to make sure their school has what it needs to create the best learning environment.
Baldwin Heights Elementary School Principal Michael Walsh watched his students walk around the track from above in the press box. As he did, he announced the accomplishment of every student who managed to reach a milestone on the day, whether it was walking one mile, or 10.
“I could not be more filled with pride than I have been today, especially being here today and getting a bird’s eye view,” Walsh said. “I know for a fact that we had more people than last year. I’ve lost count of the number of kids that have filled up one, two or three cards.”
For each half-lap that a student completed, they received a hole-punch on the card they were carrying. Once a card was full, it marked that the student had walked two and a half miles and another card was given.
For Baldwin Heights physical education teacher Lynn Marvel, seeing her students so eager to walk another lap in order to fill out their card and move on to another, was a sight she felt blessed to see.
“This is just amazing,” Marvel said. “This is so exciting because if we’re going to do a fundraiser I just love to see them exercise while doing it. What better, healthier way can we promote physical education other than to be out here walking and raising money for our school?”
According to Baldwin Heights Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) President Ann Harvery, the goal of the walk-a-thon was for students to walk throughout the day in effort to raise funds for the school, a tactic being used in the stead of previous catalog fundraisers.
As many as 90 students were registered online to participate, where more than $7,500 had already been pledged, and many more joined in on the fun on Saturday.
Harvey said she won’t know how much the event raised until the pledges are collected on Friday, but she is hoping the total will surpass last year’s walk-a-thon event.
During last year’s event more than $19,000 was raised to purchase everyday items for teachers that many have previously had to reach out-of-pocket for, such as fifth grade science teacher Mindy Hepinstall.
Hepinstall said she was able to buy slides for her mini-medical program at a cost of $25 apiece, items she has previously had to purchase herself.
“I was able to buy some of the things that I’ve always wanted but we didn’t have the money for,” Hepinstall said. “For every $25 I take out of my pocket, I’m taking that away from my family.”
Harvey said the walk-a-thon brings in about twice as much in funding as the previous catalog programs once did, which was a primary reason for abandoning the former fundraising programs.
“Whatever money we get today goes right to the kids,” Harvey said. “The catalog companies take 50 or 60 percent, depending on the company. It makes a huge difference.”
Harvey said by having the PTO organize the event, the funds can be distributed to the school as needed.
“Our teachers had everything they needed this year to start the school year for the very first time,” she said. “This is a much better thing because I get to take money and put it right into the kids’ stuff. We have iPads in the classrooms, new equipment for students to do announcements on and so much more. Every student should be able to have what they need, that is our goal.”
As music blared on the speakers around the track and Walsh continued to recognize his “superstars,” he said he could think of no better way to bring his students together for one single cause.
“Everything the students raise, it goes toward the best cause you can think of, which is our kids and our school,” he said. “It goes right into the classrooms for the teachers. This allows everyone a channel to donate and a good cause to get behind. What better cause can you think of than health and wellness, something we all want to promote. Today, these kids are superstars.”