Race for education
3.1 miles raises over $80,000 for Decatur Education Foundation
April 30, 2015
Two years ago, Decatur residents awoke to rain pounding their rooftops. Parents typed quick emails: ‘We assume it’s canceled so we plan on staying inside today,’ and tucked their kids back into bed.
Fortunately, others made their way to the high school, and not even the rain could hinder 1,000 eager runners from lining up at the starting line for this race.
The Tour deCatur is the largest fundraiser for the Decatur Education Foundation (DEF). The race includes a 5k run through the city of Decatur, but also includes a one mile Fun Run and Tot Trot for kids.
The race “is such a community funded event,” according to Carrie Beauchamp, PE teacher at Winnona Park Elementary, that weather failed to keep racer’s from showing up.
Mizuno is Tour deCatur’s presenting sponsor, providing prizes and merchandise for the racers and raffle. Matt Booth is the Territory Manager for the running division in Alabama and Georgia and recalls that rainy day.
“I remember seeing a young dad running with his daughter,” Booth said. “She was around seven years old. You can imagine what went through his mind when he woke up and saw the weather, but there he was, coming across the finish line, soaked and hand in hand with his daughter, and she had this huge smile on her face.”
Kira Wilsterman, PE teacher at Oakhurst Elementary, started Tour deCatur in 2002.
Just before her idea originated, Wilsterman was a competitive runner and on the hunt for another race to run. Then, she considered volunteering at a race and suddenly came up with the concept for Tour deCatur.
The same year, another project began: DEF. DEF is a foundation dedicated to providing educational opportunities for Decatur youth and helping them grow into their full potential, according to the DEF website.
Wilsterman contacted the director at the time, presented her idea and “that’s how it started.”
FUNDING IN ACTION
Tour deCatur now enters its 13th consecutive year. In 2003, about 100 runners competed, and the race raised around $3,000 for the DEF. Last year, 2,600 people ran, raising over $80,000.
“[The Tour deCatur] is a really significant source of funding for us,” Gail Rothman, director of the DEF, said. “It is the biggest event by far.”
The money raised by Tour deCatur goes directly to the DEF’s general operating budget, which funds a manner of things, such as teacher innovation grants.
Preschool through high school teachers can apply for grants, once in the fall and once in the spring. The grants can support anything from field trips to books.
This year, $30,000 of the budget will go toward teacher innovation grants.
Jean-Jacques Credi, instructional coach at Winnona Park Elementary, received a grant for a precision mass scale, calipers, terrarium tanks and custom made glass lids. Students use these tools to research the Blue Cobalt Poison Arrow Dart Frogs provided by the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.
Credi is grateful for the grant money for another reason, too.
“The students have been and continue to be really excited about the frogs,” Credi said. “Everyday they check on them and keep the environment moist.”
PREPARING FOR RACE DAY
“[The race] is a lot to pull off,” Rothman said, “but it’s rewarding. People love this event more than any other event that I’ve done in my career.”
Planning for Tour deCatur begins Jan. 1st.
“We get back from our winter break and we go full charge ahead,” Rothman said.
The first step is to get the race approved.
Cheryl Burnette, Assistant Director of Active Living, has approved run/walk permits for over a decade.
To authorize a race, Burnette requires a completed application and that the race benefits a non-profit located within the City of Decatur.
“We put this regulation in place because years ago everyone and their brother wanted to have a race in
Decatur. It was getting to be too much,” Burnette said.
Once approved, the hunt for sponsors begins.
According to Rothman, sponsors raise about a third of all the money.
Mizuno’s decision for sponsoring Tour deCatur was easy, according to Booth.
“Several executives in our running division live in Decatur and have children in school there,” he said.
That and the company’s close ties to Decatur made Tour deCatur “an obvious choice for us to sponsor.”
While Mizuno has sponsored Tour deCatur for four years, local law firm Dorough and Dorough, LLC, has sponsored the race since the beginning.
Kathy Dorough founded the law firm in 1998 with her husband. All of their kids ran cross country “many, many years ago” for Decatur.
“My oldest daughter used to run cross-country with Kira Wilsterman,” Dorough said, “so when she approached us years ago about sponsoring, we were happy to do it.”
Gas South has sponsored Tour deCatur for four years now. Kevin Greiner is the president and CEO.
“We believe that the work of the Decatur Education Foundation is really important, in terms of ensuring that kids in the Decatur school systems have the opportunity to learn and thrive,” Greiner said.
“We believe in the value of a really strong public school system,” he said, “and we think that the City Schools of Decatur do a great job educating our kids.”
As a sponsor, Greiner said that Gas South’s biggest responsibility is “getting the word out.”
Gas South employees participate in the race and run an information table at the race. Their goal is to educate people about the Learn with Therm program, a Gas South partnership with local school systems like Decatur, to help raise money.
Gas South also offers a two cent discount per therm, a unit of measurement in the gas industry, to both new and old customers who mention a relationship to DEF.
Greiner’s choice to support DEF is because “funding is always needed for additional programs and additional opportunities.”
After securing sponsors, DEF promotes and involves the community in the race.
This year, the race falls on Mar. 14, 2015, parallel to the first five numbers of pi, 3.1415.
The pi theme is also prevalent in a new Tour deCatur Expo this year which takes place the Friday before to promote it. The Expo includes pie giveaways and packet pickups.
Fleet Feet hosts additional packet pickups the Wednesday and Thursday before Tour deCatur.
“[Tour deCatur] is a great event,” said Clay Scarborough, who owns Fleet Feet with his wife, Karen. “It is fun to be a part of a community based event and to help support our Decatur schools.”
Carrie Beauchamp, PE teacher at Winnona Park Elementary, directs the iRun program with the other CSD PE teachers, including Wilsterman.
Six weeks of the PE curriculum at elementary uses of the iRun program.
iRun started as an after school track club at Winnona with 80 participants in 2004. They met once a week for six weeks to prepare for the Tour deCatur Fun Run, a onemile run targeted at kids and their parents.
The next year, Anne Moore and Mandy Peters, teachers involved with iRun, transferred to Oakhurst and Clairemont respectively, taking the concept with them.
From there, student involvement in the track club grew.
Last year, the track club became so popular that it moved to school hours.
Beauchamp learned of the track club six years ago, in her first year at Winnona. The track club coach at the time was pregnant, and the school asked Beauchamp to be the next coach.
“I had no idea what it was,” she said. “They told me a little about it and I took over.”
A typical day in Beauchamp’s iRun PE class starts with a warm up. She then moves the kids into dynamic movements: skipping, hopping on one foot, side sliding and karaoke steps.
Beauchamp likes her curriculum because it teaches the kids through “fun drills” to run comfortably without formally saying “‘okay, you should run on the mid part of your foot.’”
After that, Beauchamp takes the kids through either laps or speed work, “switching it up every once in a while.”
“I put two songs on for the [K-1st] and three for the [2nd-3rd graders], and they see how many laps they can run in that many songs,” she said. “I’m always amazed. For 10 minutes, a lot of kids can get in a mile’s worth of laps.”
This portion of the class also teaches the kids to find their own pace and also the etiquette of running in a large group.
To add some variety, Beauchamp throws in cross-training activities like jump rope, to teach her students that they don’t have to run every day to be a runner.
“There’s that fine line of where you keep it to a certain point and then where you need to back off on it so they don’t get bored of it,” she said.
DECATUR RUNS THE RACE
The students at Decatur can both compete and volunteer for Tour deCatur.
Claire McCarty, math teacher and cross-country coach, gathers volunteers from Key Club and National Honors Society to monitor the course, call split times and pass out medals.
She said that Tour deCatur is “a great small town race,” that deserves youth volunteers.
Other students run the race with their sports teams.
The Win Win Fundraiser allows independent organizations and teams, including Decatur’s soccer, lacrosse and baseball teams, to raise money for themselves and DEF.
Each athlete raises money for completing Tour deCatur. The team combines money raised by its athletes, and splits it 50-50 with the DEF.
“It is a great way to raise money,” Stephen Gathany, special education teacher and girls soccer coach, said. “We are giving back to the DEF, which benefits the entire school system, and the girls get some fitness accomplished at the same time. Everyone wins, and that is why it is called Win Win Fundraiser.”
Gathany also sees the race as an opportunity for his girls to grow.
“If our elementary school aged girls see the girls soccer team running in the race, it will continue to promote good health and fitness for our young girls.”