Ballard students run with spirit
By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Dozens of parents watched their children cross the finishing line on Friday morning when Ballard Elementary held its annual 1.5 mile Spirit Day run.
The event was first held eight years ago due to the initiative of Ron Gunn, Dean at Southwestern Michigan College's Fitness and Wellness Department, who at the time had children in school at Ballard.
Amy DeVos, Ballard's principal, said this year over 300 students participated in the event, which appears to be attracting larger crowds each year.
Although medals were given out to the top-five placing boys and girls from third through sixth grade, each participating student also received a certificate and a t-shirt displaying the event logo and the sponsors.
DeVos said first and second graders, who did their own fun-run, also received gift certificates.
Linda Kujawa, Ballard's physical education teacher, is one of the people behind the event.
Kujawa said the students started conditioning at school for the run three weeks ago.
But some students have worked out at home in their own spare time to be well prepared for the run, which is voluntary and costs $1 to participate in.
The money is used to cover event expenses.
Kujawa thinks the students like running and appreciate the prizes they get when participating because it's something they have worked hard for.
She is glad Gunn, and Earl Weaver, the latter volunteering with Gunn at cross country events put up the equipment used during the Spirit Day run.
But Kujawa said parents are also to be commended for their support.
Ronnie Smith, a fifth grader, barely had time to catch his breath before being asked what was the hardest part of the mile-and-a-half long race.
Ronnie's mother, Christine, thinks the event is a great for the children, but also a good way for parents to come and support the school.
In addition, she thinks having a day of running is a good way to promote exercising and physical fitness among the youngsters.
She also thinks the school is doing a good job of making sure that at the end of the day, everyone is a winner.
Tony Dlouhy has two children at Ballard.
Dlouhy said his daughters practiced three times a week running up and down the street by their home in the weeks leading up to the event.
He, too, enjoys the event.
He also thinks the students enjoy the competition. "My kids do, I know," he said.