COLUMBIA — At 7:30 a.m., the hallways at Parkade Elementary are eerily quiet. The classrooms are vacant and the gym doors gape open, showcasing an empty room.
On the playground, however, the sound of 64 pairs of feet shuffling across the asphalt, interspersed with shouts and rings of laughter, can clearly be heard.
The before-school running program at Parkade Elementary is now in its second year. With 80 students signed up, it has nearly doubled its size since it began.
The program encourages students to stay healthy and active by running, jogging and walking. There are no expectations for how many laps a student runs each day; they are encouraged to go at their own pace.
After logging 10 miles, a student will receive a new pair of shoes. One mile is equivalent to six laps around the makeshift racetrack, constructed with orange plastic cones around the playground.
“The running program is so fun,” second-grader Jasmine Staehle-Palmer said. “I like to run because it is good for you, and I want new shoes.”
The shoes are covered by the Anderson Family Charitable foundation, a organization created in 2009 by John Anderson, an MU alumnus and television host on ESPN and NBC, and his wife, Tamara.
“We began the foundation with the idea of helping underserved kids in public elementary schools,” Anderson told the Missourian in September. “Anywhere we can find spots to help, we try to help.”
When the shoes were delivered last year, it was like Christmas, said Kelly Smothers, Parkade physical education teacher and running program sponsor.
“Their eyes completely lit up,” she said. “The program has grown bigger this year, but we are hoping for a similar experience.”
Smothers said the program would continue to run as long as the weather permits, as it cannot be conducted inside.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.