Off to a good running start

NEWPORT BEACH — The kindergartners began the event with cheers and big smiles on their cute-as-a-button faces.

The 5- and 6-year-olds ran around the track, getting high-fives from Newport Beach firefighters and Corona del Mar High School cheerleaders and songleaders, as well as some approving applause from parents boogieing to the beats.

"I was running fast because I wanted my parents to be proud of me," said Micayla Willis, her cheeks pink after the run.

The Friday afternoon jog-a-thon might be standard at most elementary schools around the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, but it was Eastbluff Elementary School's first.

The kids were "so pumped, so excited, so motivated that we brought this to Eastbluff," said Jennifer Cannon, president of the Parent Teacher Assn., which put on the event. "They could not be more excited."

Kaitlyn Clark, co-captain of CdM High's cheer team, said it was nice to see how excited the students were.

"This is really fun because we get to cheer on the little kids and see their progress," she said.

The Newport Beach school's PTA has long participated in the ubiquitous gift wrapping, book fairs and auctions as fundraisers, but decided to add the jog-a-thon into its repertoire after seeing positive results at other schools, said Emily Grimmond, the PTA jog-a-thon chairwoman.

"This seemed like the perfect fit for the principles that are important to our school — fitness and community," said Colleen Taricani, the PTA vice president of ways and means.

Capt. Keith Winokur said the Newport Beach Fire Department supports all the local jog-a-thons and does what it can to support education.

"We come out so the kids understand it's important to be physically fit," Winokur said.

The PTA, which works with an estimated $200,000 annual budget, will use the money to supplement art, science, physical education and music teachers, along with other items like computers, Cannon said.

The school has already surpassed its expectations of $7,000, Grimmond said.

"It's going directly for the kids," Cannon said.

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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