When Heather met west Michigan runner Vicki Kavanaugh at this summer's Mercy Health Seaway Run and Lake Michigan Half Marathon—Vicki stopped by the Michigan Runner Girl booth at this Muskegon race's expo and introduced herself—Heather knew she had to have Vicki on the podcast. Vicki is involved with Total Trek Quest, a program that assists third-, fourth- and fifth-grade boys in learning to run a 5K. More than 100 volunteer coaches facilitate 36 practices with these boys to prepare them for the race. But this program is more than simply an after-school get-your-body moving-activity. The program focuses on goal-setting, physical activity, teamwork and building confidence in saying no to underage use of substances and yes to healthy life choices. Early prevention efforts are critical among this age group, Vicki shares. According to the 2015 Youth Assessment Survey (YAS) of Ottawa County, Michigan 8th, 10th and 12th grade students, a significant number tried smoking, inhalants, and/or alcohol before the age of 14. Among youth who have used alcohol, 25% had their first drink before age 13.
This fall, Total Trek Quest will be in four counties in the Grand Rapids area—Kent County is the latest addition—and the fall season (there are programs in the fall and in the spring) kicks off Sept. 11. It's now in its 12th season; it began in Ottawa County.
Vicki, whose children are ages 24 and 20, shares her own running journey with Heather as well; she started running with the encouragement of her college roommate. She's a former longtime Gazelle Sports employee who has worked with hundreds of runners in Gazelle's training programs. She now serves as youth development specialist with Pathways in Holland, which is the organization through which Total Trek Quest operates.