'Fund Run' -- Koontz students run laps for fundraiser
By Shavonne Potts
Sweat dripped from Ethan Oden's forehead as he slowly caught his breath. The Koontz Elementary School student had just run several laps around the school's new gravel fitness track. He wasn't necessarily running for competition, but to raise enough money to place mulch at the site. Oden, 10, and many more students at Koontz collected money, and on Thursday, ran laps around the school's new obstacle course. The obstacle course and track were created in September during the Rowan County United Way Day of Caring service project event. The race, dubbed the "Fund Run," was a way for students to literally hit the ground running and raise money at the same time. The track and course are behind the school. To be eligible to run laps, each student collected at least $5. The laps were timed and the top three in each grade received medals during a ceremony Thursday night. The students also had the opportunity to thank the United Way and Day of Caring volunteers during the ceremony. Ethan Oden thought he finished well, but didn't really care if he won. "It's not about winning, it's about trying," he said after his last lap. Oden's mother, Tiffany, was there to cheer him and his fellow classmates on lap after lap. The students were so excited, the screams and cheers could be heard in the front parking lot. "I'm here to support the kids. It's good for the kids and it gives them a time to exercise," Tiffany Oden said. Oden was also there to cheer on her neighbor's children as well, but she wasn't the only parent there. Isaac Doyal was there to cheer on daughter, Addison, 5. Doyal said he and his other daughter, Kara, 3, were at the school that day to eat lunch with Addison, but decided to stay for the Fund Run. He thought it was a great way to encourage children to give back and learn a little about healthy competition. Kimber Huffman, one of the school event's organizers, said any extra money raised will go toward technology. Each grade competes against other classes in their respective grades, she said. "We're really trying to honor them by showing them we are using it," Huffman said. She said it is because of the United Way and volunteers that the students were able to have their fundraising event. The Fund Run is usually an event students take part in during the school's fall festival, Panther Palooza. "We are extremely grateful to Koontz Elementary for their acknowledgement of the project. We don't ever expect recognition for Day of Caring but when someone takes the time to plan an event to say thank you, it means so much," said Jackie Harris, United Way marketing and campaign director. The project was a collaborative effort from several volunteers and local companies who donated time and materials. David Freeze, who serves on the Day of Caring assessment team was the first to see the plan, Harris said. Harris said the committee met and searched for the "right group to take on the project because they knew it would require skilled labor. Paul Robertson and his team at Akzo Nobel visited the school and liked the project, Harris said. Vulcan Materials donated the stone for the trail. Denise Hallett, with Vulcan Materials, also this year's campaign chairwoman, was also a part of the project. Bost Trucking made two trips to the school to haul the stone. "This is the kind of collaborative effort United Way is all about," Harris said. Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.