The annual event in Newberg promotes a healthy lifestyle for local youngsters

SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Healthy Kids Running Series is a five-week program for kids age 2 to 14 designed to encourage active and healthy lifestyles.

The sound of children shrieking with excitement and their feet thumping against the grass will once again return to Newberg this spring as the Healthy Kids Running Series gears up for another year of friendly competition. HKRS is a national nonprofit with a local chapter that is funded by local businesses and it promotes a healthy lifestyle while allowing kids to explore their athletic interests.

The five-week running program is for kids age 2 to 14 and encourages them to be active and maintain a healthy lifestyle through exercise. Community coordinator Rachael Nichols encouraged youngsters from around the Chehalem Valley to register for the annual event, which is open now.

""Healthy Kids Running Series is a national inclusive and fun youth running experience where kids, ages 2-14, gain confidence, develop an active healthy lifestyle and create a sense of community," Nichols said. "Our series is focused on getting kids excited about being active, staying healthy, building self- esteem and getting outside. We want to see them step away from the screen and get them moving. It not only becomes a fun family event, but also develops relationships and a sense of community."

The five-week cross country-style program runs in the spring and fall with age-appropriate race distances. Kids compete each week for a chance to earn points, and at the end of the series the top boy and girl with the most points in their respective age division earns a trophy. All participants receive a finisher's medal, race packet and Healthy Kids Running Series T-shirt for their achievements.

Inclusivity is a focus for this year's running series as well. The local Newberg series also has a Challenger division which is a race for children with special needs.

"Healthy Kids Running Series is designed to combat the increasing rates of child obesity in America," Jeff Long, Healthy Kids Running Series Founder, said in a press release. "My goal is to motivate and inform kids to be healthy and active. We are providing a fun environment to improve their self-esteem and inspire them to adopt a 'Get Up and Go' attitude. The support and growth of our series have confirmed our value and mission."

More than 60,000 kids participate in the races nationwide. Ultimately, it's about being healthy and building friendships, Nichols said.

Registration is open for the five-week spring series at Early bird registration is $35 for the five-week series prior to March 15th, then increases to $40 after that. The season's first race is scheduled tentatively to begin on April 19 and run through May 17 at the Joan Austin Elementary School field/playground area.

Nichols said the start date for the running series is subject to change or new guidance regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus. The event's postponement and official start date will depend on guidelines for social distancing along with potential extension of school closures.

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