In The Spirit

Local schools benefit from 16th annual Spirit Challenge

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— Get the pledge cards out and start stretching.

Since spring has cleared the track for walkers and runners, the 16th annual Spirit Challenge can begin.

In an attempt to help fund special projects in four Routt County elementary schools, the Yampa Valley Legacy Education Initiative has taken over organizational responsibilities of Spirit Challenge for the first year.

Students at Soda Creek, Strawberry Park, Hayden and South Routt elementary schools have begun knocking on doors to receive pledges for the kindergarten through fifth-grade walk-a-thon May 5.

Elementary students will walk as many times around the track as possible within one and a half hours. Pledges are based on the laps, not the miles. And students typically walk about 20 to 30 laps that day.

But kids aren't the only ones getting outside to exercise.

Although adults and middle- and high-schoolers don't need to get pledges, they can enter the 5K walk or 5K or 10K run for a registration fee.

The 10K race will run participants out Amethyst Drive toward the hot springs and back, while the 5K race mixes trail and road avenues.

Marybeth Strotbeck, who is co-chairing the event for the first time, said Spirit Challenge was run for 15 years by the Routt County Education Foundation, but the YVLEI now is taking full reign this year.

"It's geared a lot toward children to give them the opportunity to be a part of a community event," Strotbeck said. "Plus, they get good exercise and get geared up to be involved in the community."

Millie Beall, event chairwoman for eight years, said the YVLEI and the Routt County Education Foundation soon will be merging. But no matter which organization sponsors the event, the proceeds still go back to the classroom.

While Legacy would look to fund more place-based education projects, Beall said the Education Foundation would simply put money toward anything that needed extra funding.

"What we like to see is the three districts in Routt County share resources," Beall said. "Let's talk to one another, let's collaborate."

Strotbeck said the heart of the matter is giving money that is earned from the walks and races back to a variety of special projects aimed for elementary school students in place-based education.

Beall said academic programs that don't fall under regular funding could receive the proceeds from Spirit Challenge in a cross-county interchange of resources.

Teachers from the various schools write grant proposals, all hoping to get the proceeds to fund their favorite special project. But only one will walk away with the funds.

Spirit Challenge was originally named Schwall Challenge 16 years ago when Strawberry Park Elementary teacher Jack Schwall and his newborn baby died unexpectedly.

With the interwoven support system existent in Steamboat for decades, teachers, students and the community gathered together to raise money to assist Clark Schwall, Jack's wife, and her toddler son, Adam.

However, when Clark received the proceeds from the walk and race, she donated the money to Bud Werner Memorial Library.

Trying to get on with her life, Clark decided to change the name, and Millie Beall began promoting Spirit Challenge instead.

"The spirit is school spirit, there's a lot of spirit involved because (the money) always goes back to the kids," Beall said.

All students who participate will receive a grab bag full of certificates to local businesses.

To get students involved in Spirit Challenge, We're Not Clowns performed at school assemblies and students entered a coloring contest for the signs posted in different businesses around town.

Although all who entered posters had the privilege of being shown in windows and on lampposts, only three received prizes for their best coloring artwork.

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