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My friends and family know that I am NOT a morning person, so it takes something pretty special, perhaps even a miracle, for me to wake up and get moving at dark-thirty on a Saturday morning.

Last weekend, that something special was walking the Cooper River Bridge Run with the students from Louie’s Kids Fit Club, and the Miracle, I later learned, has the last name Washington.

First a little background: I’ve known about Louie’s Kids (http://www.louieskids.org/) and its mission to “fight childhood obesity one child at time” for a few years. We profiled its founder, Louis Yuhasz, in January 2008 when he developed the Charleston-based Fit Club for local kids at Title 1 schools and awarded him our Benevolent Spirit Giving Back Award last September. And Louis has become a dear friend, so it’s no surprise that I believe in what the organization does and want to support it. But actually walking the walk with these kids from Mitchell, Sanders-Clyde, and Memminger elementary schools took my belief to another level.

That morning, my boyfriend, Wally, and I met up with the crew at a friend’s house just blocks from the starting line. As you can imagine, an event with 30,000 plus participants has an energy level that’s palpable. The kids seemed excited and perhaps a bit nervous, and so was I.

They may have been worried about the 6.2 miles ahead of them, but I was concerned with logistics. How in the world were we going to keep 15 or so tweens (whom I had never met before) in a cohesive group among 30,000 competitors? Thankfully, Fit Club had it all organized—with eight adults, including Wally, myself, and Lowcountry Live’s own Ryan Nelson, to shepherd the children through the course.

After a few introductions, program director Bucky Buchanan (look for this amazing young man in an upcoming Generation Next profile) asked one of the girls to lead us through some warm-up stretches, and then we made our way to the starting line. Although the Bridge Run is technically a race against the clock, we let the majority of folks go on ahead. For our group it wasn’t about speed but determination. And we were there to encourage, cajole, and sometimes nudge the kids on their way.

After the initial warm-up walking amongst the masses down Coleman Boulevard, the aim was to walk for three minutes, then jog for one, and we did our best. Sure, there were complaints and some tears, but the overriding spirit was high. And that brings me to Miracle Washington.

Louis paired us up in the first mile or so of the walk. When we got to our first jog, she grabbed my hand and off we went. Miracle wasn’t so much into the jogging, but as we walked and talked our way across the bridge, I learned that she is a seventh grader at Sanders-Clyde, she’s going to be 13 in May, and this was her second time on the Cooper River Bridge.

She must also be extremely modest because I later learned from Louis that in the four months that Miracle has been in Fit Club, she has lost 16 pounds, was the second of her group to earn her new running shoes from Try Sports, and will be one of the six Fit Club kids to go on to the Daniel Island Kids Triathlon in June (http://www.charlestoncity.info/dept/content.aspx?nid=1154&cid=12401).

It took us a while to get to the finish line on Meeting Street that day, but it wasn’t about the time on the clock. It was about the look of achievement on all of those kids’ faces and the big hug I got from Miracle. And while I was her cheerleader (and sometimes nag) during this walk/run, she’s inspired me to get up at dark thirty on at least one Saturday each month to volunteer for Fit Club’s weekend workouts.

It would take a Miracle, but she’s worth it.

For more on the Fit Club Bridge Run experience, check out:
http://assets.mediaspanonline.com/prod/2271801/04082009MONA16.pdf
http://www.wciv.com/news/stories/0409/610297_video.html?ref=newsstory

To get involved with Louie’s Kids and/or Fit Club, log on to http://www.louieskids.org/

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