Running down a dream.

Ready, set, run: Police officer and 26th District PAL director Francine Whitfield and iThrive Worldwide founder Doreen Allen help PAL kids stretch before the Spartan Race in September. PHOTO COURTESY OF FRANCINE WHITFIELD

 

The 26th District PAL won’t celebrate its first birthday until February, but it’s running full-speed ahead,

literally.

Last Monday, Oct. 7, the first season of new running program commenced at the hub of activities for neighborhood youth on Tucker Street in the former St. Anne’s gym.

Every Monday, participants 8 and older will be transported to parks throughout Philadelphia to stretch, run, and engage in workouts for two hours.

The first session will run until Nov. 11. The second session from run from April 6 to May 11.

Police officer Francine Whitfield, one of the directors at 26th District PAL, was inspired to get kids up and moving after completing a race this year.

“I participated in the Broad Street run this past year and it brought me such a great feeling of accomplishment, which sparked the idea of a PAL running club for our kids,” she said. “I spoke with some of our PAL kids and many expressed they would love to participate in races.”

Whitfield looked into other running groups in the area and discovered iThrive Worldwide, a nonprofit for foster youth that participates in the Spartan Race annually.

After contacting the organization, Whitfield and the PAL kids were invited to be part of its team for the race on Sept. 21.

“It was truly an unforgettable experience for [the PAL kids]. It’s taught them the true definition of teamwork and pushing through obstacles even if mentally and physically they wanted to give up,” Whitfield said. “They truly made PAL & iThrive proud.”

With its first race under its belt, the running program is looking to make slow, but significant strides during its inaugural seasons.

“As of now, the plan is to develop a medal system as an incentive for 1-mile runners & 5K runners. We are also planning on participating in at least one citywide run,” Whitfield said. “Depending on the programs turnout and what the participants show interest in, we would love to incorporate cross-fit training in the near future.”

Regardless of what roads the program runs on, the goal will remain steadfast.

“In an era of social media & gaming, our overall goal is to get children up, out, motivated and participating in some type of physical activity,” Whitefield said. “Running plays an important role in mostly every sport so offering this type of program to our children will not only help them maintain a healthy weight but will also help with any other sport they are involved with.”

In other 26th District PAL news, registration for flag football ages 10 to 13, boys basketball ages 14 to 18, cheerleading and tumbling ages 6 & older & two mentoring programs called Girls Positive Image & Boys to Men is currently open. Two additional programs will debut this year including  girls’ basketball ages 9 to 13 and a cheer competition team.

A youth summit for the Girls Positive Image program will be held on Oct. 23 upstairs at St. Anne’s Hall. The Halloween Haunted House event will be held on Oct. 30 for registered PAL kids.

For more details about programs at 26th District PAL, visit the center at Memphis and Tucker streets, check out 26th District PAL on Facebook or Instagram, or email PAL directors at Fwhitfield@phillypal.org or Bdeeley@phillypal.org.