A handful of third and fifth-grade girls from Loyal Heights Elementary are running laps around the playground on a chilly weekday afternoon. They are running to build healthy bodies as well as self-confidence, friendship and a sense of identity. And, also to get the wiggles out.
The girls are part of the Loyal Heights chapter of Girls on the Run Puget Sound, a nonprofit started in 2002 as part of the international Girls on the Run organization.
Girls on the Run's mission is to prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living.
"It's been enlightening," said Carmen Hudson, head coach of the Loyal Heights group. "We're starting to address topics that they are going to encounter in middle school."
So far, the group has discussed issues like drugs, bullies and the pressure put on women by the media.
The Girls on the Run curriculum ties these lessons into healthy living by creating physical activities related to the message.
On Dec. 1, the topic was community service. The biweekly meeting opened with the girls standing in a tight circle facing the person in front of them. They then tried to slowly sit down on the lap behind them.
This summer, third-generation Ballardite Mike Erstad will be climbing the 14,410 of Mount Rainier to raise money for the American Lung Association as part of the 23rd Climb for Clean Air.
For Erstad, an avid backpacker and hiker who scaled Rainier in 2006, lung health is a personal issue worthy of support.
His oldest son suffers from asthma and his grandfather died of lung cancer.
Erstad's goal is to raise $4,000 in pledges for the American Lung Association. The group of about 50 climbers embarking on the Climb for Clean Air in July have an overall goal of $200,000.
The Mount Rainier climb is going to be a treat, Erstad said.
"I'm a Northwest guy, so I love getting outdoors," he said. "When you get out, it's just so beautiful. I can't get over the scenery."
In addition to the views, Erstad will get to spend some time with the Whittaker family, mountaineering legends.
"It's like hanging out for a few days with Michael Jordan for a basketball player," he said.
Lou Whittaker, founder of Rainier Mountaineering, Inc., led the first successful American summit of the North Col of Mount Everest.
Undeterred by a steady drizzle and the possibility of a relaxing holiday morning, hundreds of runners, joggers and walkers turned out for the third annual Seattle Turkey Trot Nov. 26 in Ballard.
More than 700 people had pre-registered for the 5K fun-run and walk, and registration was still open minutes before the race started.
Some participants donned serious running attire. Others dressed for the day, wearing feathered headbands, turkey hats or full-on Pilgrim garb.
"We are amazed and very pleased with the number of people here," said Nancy McKinney, director of the Ballard Food Bank.
The Turkey Trot is a fundraiser for the food bank. McKinney said she was not sure how much they raised with this year's race, but she guesses it is more than $15,000.
The numbers for Turkey Trot 2009 dwarfed those of the previous year, when 200 participants raised $2,500 for the food bank.
Nick Roosa, a 24-year-old New Yorker in town visiting his sister, was the first to cross the finish line.
He said the Turkey Trot, which headed south on 32nd Northwest from 85th Avenue Northwest and ended at Golden Gardens, was a lot of fun. He has raced in a lot of them but never won.
The annual Lafayette Elementary School Walk-A-Thon was more of a run as kids darted around the quarter-mile track Friday, Oct. 23. First-graders took to the pavement first, many going 16 laps, a few going 20.
"I can barely walk," said first grader Jordan Allen with pride after running 16 laps. "My feet hurt."
Kids, and some brave teachers and parents, ran laps around the school’s playground in the chilly rain to raise money for school programs. The funds raised from this volunteer-run effort allow Lafayette to offer a variety of programs not funded by the school district.
According to the school, In 2008, the event raised more than $55,000 in pledges and sponsorships, which enabled the school to pay for: a tutor program, Accelerated Reader tests, computer lab equipment, art and science enrichment programs, library books and art materials and playground fund.
Participants of the West Seattle/Fauntleroy YMCA adult boot camp class were bending, stretching and skipping at Rotary Viewpoint Park on 35th Avenue Southwest the morning of Thursday, Sept. 17.
Instructor Buntly Willard said this is a year round class and that they walk down from the YMCA and work out under the 18-foot totem.
Since 2002, Girls on the Run of Puget Sound has operated an after-school prevention program for third through fifth grade girls throughout the region and this year it finally comes to West Seattle with two new programs; one at Pathfinder Alternative School and another at Hiawatha Community Center starting Sept. 28.
Kerin Brasch, executive director of the local chapter of the non-profit group, said Girls on the Run is an after school program that combines physical activity with self-esteem building, "life lessons," aimed at preparing young girls for the challenges they will likely face in middle school.
"It's more than running," she said.
The mission, said Brasch is to "use the power of running to educate and prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living."
The curriculum centers around instilling independence and confidence in girls through activities originally developed by Molly Barker in 1996 in Charlotte, N.C.
On a bright Friday morning, Lara McIntosh steps and sways across a dance floor at the ARC School of Ballet in the old Crown Hill Elementary building.
More than two dozen colorfully attired students of all shapes and ages mimic her movements. Some of them have been with McIntosh and her Wassa Dance class for more than a decade.
McIntosh, who has been teaching dance since the early 90s, has used her passion for dance to create a community around the long-running Wassa class, an incredible accomplishment for an independent dance class, she said.
"I was born interested in dancing," she said. "It's an endless field of thing to explore. There's so much possibility."
While studying modern dance as an adult, McIntosh became interested in African dancing. A seed for that interest was planted long before, she said.
Memories of watching a filmstrip featuring the National Ballet of Senegal at Carnegie Hall as a grade-schooler came back to McIntosh in her adult life and cemented her interest in African music and dance, she said.