Thanking vets, Kansas style: students from Kansas City give four days of their summer, running to raise $6,000 for homeless and hospitalized Kansas veterans in 2001 – Kids `Run Across Kansas’ For Veterans – children from the Kansas City Christian Schoo participate in Run Across Kansas – Brief Article
For the last four years on Memorial Day weekend, kids from Kansas City, Kan., have been raising money for veterans. A group of 20-30 students from Kansas City Christian School take part in Run Across Kansas each year. Starting at the Kansas/Colorado border, both kids and adults run relay-style, covering some 400 miles in four days.
Each year, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the kids pile into three large passenger vans and drive to Tribune, about 20 miles from the Colorado border. There, Post 7521 and its Ladies Auxiliary provide food and shelter for the group. Running begins the next morning.
Everyone is divided into three groups, and the vans split up at 15-mile intervals along smaller state highways. The three groups run simultaneously, one mile at a time, two kids on each mile. Most runners cover 20-25 miles each over the 4-day event.
With a few overnight stops coordinated by VFW Posts along the way, the group finishes their trek on Memorial Day by running up the Topeka Capitol Building steps. Coordinator Lisa Cowan then presents a VFW representative with the money the group raised. In 2001, the eight adults and 30 kids raised more than $6,000.
Cowan and her husband John came up with the idea for the run in 1997 as something beneficial their kids could do together to start off summer. It evolved into an effort to challenge a group of primarily 13and 14-year-old boys and teach them about the meaning of Memorial Day.
Jacqueline Strobl, 17, one of the few girls, has run all four years. “I’ve been so encouraged by the adult runners, the kids stepping up and the veterans you get to know over the years,” she said. “I come back for them.”
POSTS PLAY VITAL PART
When planning the first trip in 1998, Cowan had to find somewhere to sleep each night. She thought VFW involvement could help teach the kids about veterans. She contacted Department of Kansas Youth Director Lester Wendt, who helped her find Posts willing to participate.
The Posts along the route all have been more than happy to help. In addition to Post 7521, each year Post 7972 in Ransom, Post 7428 in Hoisington and Post 8773 in Junction City all open their doors. Each Post provides the runners with a hot meal, a place to sleep and breakfast in the morning. Posts 6752 in Leoti, 7773 in Scott City and 1281 in Herington also contribute.
Along the way, veterans share their experiences. Some tell stories, and one member presented a slide show from his days in Vietnam. Through the contact with veterans and discussions with the adults at night before bed, the kids are able to get a better understanding of why veterans are important, and why those who sacrificed their lives are honored on Memorial Day.
“Next week, or three years from now, if someone asks, `What do you know about veterans?’ these kids will know,” said Price Williams, one of the adult runners. “Not because their parents told them, but because they came on this trip.”
VFW involvement also presented an opportunity for fundraising. Before the run, Cowan encouraged each student to raise $150 to donate to a local veterans cause. American Family Insurance agreed to sponsor the run, donating money and T-shirts.
The group also started receiving other donations before the trip and along the way from Posts and communities. The money raised in 2001 went to hospitalized vets, Operation Uplink and disaster relief.
Though the runners do this out of appreciation for veterans, usually it’s the vets showing gratitude. “Here we are trying to thank them, and they end up thanking us,” Cowan said. “It’s really remarkable that for a few days this blend of younger and older generations, that otherwise would never have met, have a common ground to stand on.”
Nine-year-old runner Keegan Williams summed up the experience best: “Veterans lost their arms and legs, and now we’re using our arms and legs to help them.”
COPYRIGHT 2002 Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group