DANVILLE — The Danville Family YMCA will pilot a program next month that will develop character as well as build stamina in boys from around Vermilion County. 

The YMCA is accepting registrations from boys in third through fifth grade from around the county for the inaugural season of the Y’s STRIDE youth development program. The Y also needs adult volunteers to help encourage and inspire the boys.

STRIDE, which is an acronym for Success, Teamwork, Respect, Intellectual, Determination = Excellence in Character, is a 10-week course for third- through fifth-grade boys. Trained volunteer coaches will start each session with an introduction of the day’s character-building lesson, followed by a warm-up, group discussion, running workout and interactive games.

The pilot program kicks off Feb. 3 and runs through April 18. Sessions will be 5:30-7 p.m. twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The fees for the program — which includes 20 one-and-a-half hour lessons, snacks, 5K registration and a program T-shirt — are on a sliding scale based on the eligibility for free and reduced lunch. The full fee is $125, the reduced lunch fee is $75 and the free lunch fee is $25.

During each session, the boys will build the stamina, techniques and confidence to run a 5K. Boys who demonstrate excellent character will be rewarded with a STRIDE dog tag at the end of the lesson. At the conclusion of the ten-week program, the boys will celebrate by participating in a 5K with their coaches, parents and running partners.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to reach out into our communities,” Michael T. Brown, executive director and CEO of the Danville Family YMCA, said. “It’s what community is all about.”

Brown said he first learned of the STRIDE program and a similar program for third- through fifth-grade girls called Girls on the Run at a conference.

“I learned of a couple programs that piqued my interest that I thought would work well in Vermilion County,” he said. “I’m so excited because it’s going to give us the opportunity to work with boys countywide.

The Danville Family YMCA is going through the application process for a Girls on the Run chapter, which is a national nonprofit organization. Like the STRIDE program for boys, girls in third through fifth grade will attend 20 character-building lessons and train for a 5K run.

“I think they’re going to be impactful for our county and bridge some of those gaps,” he said of both the boys’ and girls’ programs.

Brown said his goal is to strengthen the foundation of community by having a STRIDE team in every Vermilion County school district.

“I would like to get a team of 15 third- through fifth-grade boys at each elementary school in the county,” he said.

The program focuses on achieving one’s personal best.

The 20 character-development lessons will run the gamut and include learning about becoming a more effective runner, empathy, being a good friend, respect and inclusion, teamwork, bullying, eating healthy, dangers of drugs, setting goals, time management and organization, Internet safety and maintaining a positive attitude.

Each STRIDE program will culminate with the boys participating in a community 5K run.

“We’ll have teams join other 5K races,” Brown said.

During the piloting of the first STRIDE program, all of the sessions will be held after school at the Danville Family YMCA.

Brown said next school year, the STRIDE program will be established at the individual grade schools in the county.

“We are ready to distribute information (about STRIDE) and set up meetings in the evening at the schools,” he said.

For the program to be a success, however, the YMCA seeks adult volunteer coaches.

Coaches do not have to be elite runners. The volunteers just need to be responsible, encouraging individuals that can motivate and relate to boys.

The Y will provide mandatory coaches’ training and will certify each head coach in CPR free of charge.

“You don’t have to be a runner; just interested in working with youth,” Brown said.

Volunteer coaches are asked to commit to the program and be available for 90 minutes twice a week during the 10-week program and also to be available during the 5K run.

“It is of the utmost importance that we have qualified, trained, positive volunteers to sow into the lives of our young people,” Brown said. “We are committed to make sure that all volunteer coaches receive all the necessary materials and support throughout the program to ensure that they are successful and have a positive experience.” 

To register

For registration information on the STRIDE program, please visit the YMCA website at www.danvilleymca.org/youthteen_stride.html or download the Danville Family YMCA mobile app in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

Interested volunteers can stop by the YMCA to fill out a volunteer application or e-mail info@danvilleymca.org to have an application sent via e-mail. 

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