ISHPEMING - Big Brothers Big Sisters of Marquette and Alger Counties does a lot more than pair a kid (or "little") with adult volunteers through one-on-one mentorships.
It also instills the values of being healthy, getting active and getting outside to have some fun.
A great example is the program's 32nd Annual GO BIG for Kids Pioneer Days Classic 10K and 2 Mile Run/Walk, which will take place in Negaunee July 12 just before the city's Pioneer Days parade, and which this year has been endorsed as a "quality physical activity event" by the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports, as part of the Pure Michigan FITness Series.
Runner Rob Fox receives a medal at the 2012 Big Brothers Big Sisters Pioneer Days Classic in Negaunee.
Many kids and their families participate together in the Big Brothers Big Sisters' annual Pioneer Days Classic 10K and 2 Mile Run/Walk as seen in this 2010 photo. (Photos courtesy of Jayne Letts)
"By endorsing local events all across the state, we hope to bring attention to the importance of physical activity and encourage our citizens to take responsibility for their health," said Marilyn Lieber, president and CEO of the Governor's Council, in a recent press release. "These local events can have a tremendous impact on health care costs that present a significant challenge for our state's economy."
The fitness program recognizes "local, regional and state events that are consistent with the Council's mission to Get Michigan on its Feet," according to its website. Among other attributes, an endorsement from the governor's council requires that the event promotes healthy choices while offering physical activity open to people of all skill levels and ages, that participants' safety and well-being are cared for and that it offers a maximum opportunity for participation. BBBS' Pioneer Days Classic fits the bill.
Inclusion is a big part of the event, says Jayne Letts, executive director of BBBS of Marquette and Alger Counties, and many of the roughly 200 participants choose to tackle the run together as a family.
"We have people pushing strollers, we have kids as young as 5 years old doing the race," she said. "I think there's just a big push today for health and fitness and this is something that a lot of people like to participate in."
Beginning at 8:30 in the morning July 12, with registration beginning at 7:30, the 10K goes from the Negaunee Seniors Center to Ishpeming and back on the Iron Ore Heritage Trail. The 2-mile course will weave through Negaunee, parts of the Heritage Trail and the city's Old Town before ending near the Seniors Center.
"Running has become increasingly popular, so the number of runners has increased quite a bit, particularly over the past five years," Letts said. "It's almost doubled in the numbers that we have."
The annual run is just one of many events that BBBS plans and sponsors with kids and their volunteers that put a priority on health and fitness.
"We offer a lot of outdoor activities for our matches, such as paddleboarding lessons and kayaking," Letts said. "We've gone to the climbing wall at Marquette and ... our big brothers and big sisters and our little brothers and little sisters, they do a lot of activities together that are healthy and outdoors. And so when they're matched - a child is matched with a big brother or big sister - it really encourages a healthy lifestyle and they do a lot of fun activities together that keep kids active."
The Marquette-Alger BBBS matches about 150 kids from ages 7 to 18 every year, Letts said. "And some matches last a lifetime. We ask for a year-long commitment, but our average match is about three years."
Kids or their parents or adult volunteers looking to participate in Big Brothers Big Sisters, or who want to find out more information about the upcoming run, can call the BBBS office at 475-7801 or visit bbbsmqt.org.
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.