PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – If you’ve ever signed up for one of the races during Pittsburgh Marathon weekend, you’ve probably noticed a little box on the registration form asking if you want to make a donation to the Kids of Steel Project R.U.N. Program.
The project helps underprivileged children in our area learn the importance of exercise.
It also teaches them about good nutrition and helps build their self-esteem.
The program is now up and running in 15 locations in the Pittsburgh area — one of which is the Bethany House Academy in Northview Heights.
As fast as their little legs will take them, they run in place when it’s too cold to run outside.
On warmer days, they chase their running coach around the yard.
“We try to go for like four or five minutes of straight on and off running, or tag and just chasing the kids. And sometimes, they try to chase me, so if I can evade them, that’s longer that we run,” Stewart Jones said.
As part of the Kids of Steel Project R.U.N. Program kids as young as 2 learn the importance of good nutrition and regular exercise.
On the day KDKA-TV visited, the menu included stuffed zucchini boats, bell peppers, pasta and mushrooms.
“I want them to experience new and different foods, or foods done a different way. They’ve all seen mushrooms with me before, but they haven’t seen them marinated yet. And they’ve seen meat, but they haven’t seen it in a squash yet,” Nick Fischer said.
And they always say grace.
The program offers classes for parents, too, to give them the skills they need to cook healthy meals for their family.
“We talk about common myths of food, grocery store tricks, shopping tricks, budgeting tricks,” Fischer said.
“You need the right fuel to be a good athlete. So, that’s what, we kind of go with that concept for all of our kids. We kind of tell them, if you eat healthy, that’s energy to do better on the field or on the track,” Jones said.
One key component to being a good athlete is having the right gear.
Every single child who participates gets a free pair of running shoes.
“They think they’re faster when they put the shoes on, which is always cool for me to see, because they’re like, ‘Look how fast I am coach Stu!’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, let me see you!’” Jones said.
Those shoes are what carry each and every child across the finish line at the one-mile Kids Marathon on race weekend.
Their Project R.U.N. coaches are waiting, cheering them on.
“A couple years ago, the kids got their shoes on race day. They went down to the race and then they came back they were taking the shoes off, and Mr. Murphy said, ‘Why are you taking the shoes off?’ And they thought that they had to give them back. They didn’t realize that they were actually their shoes to keep,” P3R Youth Program Manager Michele Nichols said.
One big hurdle many families face is actually getting to the race.
The program offers different options to help make sure every family has a chance to see their kids cross the finish line.
It’s a lot of work, a lot of logistics and a lot of planning, but the employees say it’s worth it.
“They just come up and they just hug you and that’s the best feeling,” Nichols said.
“Never give up, keep trying to finish, keep hanging in there, keep being tough,” Jones said.
The Kids of Steel Project R.U.N. Program is always looking for volunteers.
You can still make a donation to the project even if you’ve already signed up for one of the Pittsburgh Marathon’s races.
For more information, visit their website here.