Runners in fine spirit for charity fundraiser

Lindsay Sandham

Runners in the Spirit Run celebrated its 22nd year Sunday with more

than 6,000 attendees, including more than 4,000 who joined the races.

The event, held at Fashion Island, was founded 22 years ago by the

mother of a Harbor View Elementary School student to unify

fundraising efforts of local elementary schools.

And it continues to do so, raising an average of $100,000 to split between Andersen, Eastbluff, Harbor View, Lincoln and Newport Coast

elementary schools.

Racers could run, walk or jog a 5K or a 10K, and there were eight

one-mile youth races divided up into age groups. There was even a

toddler trot for the wee ones, some of whom could barely walk.

The schools use the money differently, applying it to whatever

they see fit.

Each school earns a different amount, depending on its fundraising

efforts and registration numbers.

"Last year, we got around $12,000," said Newport Coast Principal

Monique Van Zeebroeck, who ran the 10K and the 5K.

The money the school receives will go toward music, art and

physical education programs, the things that are often deemed extra,

she said.

Andersen Elementary Principal Mary Manos said her school is always

grateful for the funds raised, especially since state budget cuts

have reduced funding for regular programs.

Although the schools need the money and the fundraising aspect is

important for the community, many of the Spirit Run organizers and

participants are grateful for an event that promotes healthy

competition and fitness.

"I just love to be out here because it's so good for the kids to

have a family fitness event like this," said Andersen Elementary

kindergarten and first-grade teacher Brenda Colgate. Colgate said she

runs the 5K every year. "Maybe next year I'll do the 10K -- when I

grow up."

Newport Coast's Nick Rose, who runs the race with his daughters,

said it's good for children to see the benefits of healthy

competition and exercise.

Honorary race director Steve Scott said seeing the kids crossing

the finish line is his favorite part of the race each year.

Scott, a UC Irvine alumnus and a three-time Olympian known for

running the mile in under 4 minutes, runs with the kids and helps

keep them organized.

"The greatest thing is you see kids being physically active," he

said. "Their diet is going to be what it's going to be, but what they

need is more exercise."

Event organizer Kathy Kinane said the Spirit Run is valuable to

members of the community and the families who participate.

"With obesity becoming such a major problem with America's youth,"

Kinane said, "seeing families out here being healthy and active is

the most important part of this event."

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