Getting active in community makes a difference in everybody's life

Back in March, I wrote a column about being a converted sports junkie. It detailed my appreciation for high school sports, and I believe it’s what spurred me to get more involved in the community since people still remark on it nearly nine months later.

On Nov. 15, the last session was held for the I Toowú Klatseen group. Before the final meeting, a make-up run took place for the kids who had missed the previous week’s 5-kilometer fun run. It was the culmination of around 10 weeks of meetings and practices — and I nearly missed all of it.

Sometime last year, Kay Larson got wind that I was an endurance runner because when you’re a runner, you tell everyone — except those annoying vegans; they never stop talking about being vegan. She came by the office and asked if I was willing to be involved in the program, which teaches third through fifth graders about things like respect, strength, community and caring about others. They learn Tlingit words and phrases. They get active and run. It ends with the kids running the 3.1-mile distance.

I didn’t quite grasp the concept at the time and didn’t think I’d be the right fit to coach. Thankfully, Kay is persistent and dedicated to making Wrangell a better place to live, and I soon relented. Scheduling conflicts arose, planning meetings were held, and eventually we agreed on a time and date to start.

We were off and running. Kind of.

Initially, there were more kids wanting to attend than we had space to accommodate. Some of the children started strong, then decided not to return. By the end, we had nine regular attendees.

Throughout the program, Kim Wickman brought the kids into a sharing circle and talked about different values. Virginia Oliver taught them Tlingit and shared cultural stories. I made them run and question their decisions, much like attending a monthly meeting of local vegans. Kay, Virginia, Kim and the other program volunteers Joan Sargent and Artha DeRuyter all kept moving and encouraged the kids by participating in warm-up exercises and walking alongside the kids for practices.

Side note: If you want to be shown up in yoga moves, invite Virginia to participate. I’ve never felt so inflexible or unbalanced compared to someone else.

The I Toowú Klatseen program is the most I’ve been involved in a community program in a long time. Journalists typically don’t volunteer for such things in the same areas they cover. It helps to maintain a sense of fairness in our reporting. For example, if I sit on the board of an organization which is suddenly embroiled in scandal, how could I fairly report on that situation?

But it’s different in a small town like Wrangell. Not only are we charged with telling the stories of the community, we’re part of that community. It’s important that we get involved. It’s important that everyone get involved where possible.

I’m often amazed at how many different boards or committees Joan Sargent is a part of, but that’s what getting involved looks like. It’s not that she has anything better to do, it’s that she wants to make a difference.

As the running program was nearing its end, a public notice was posted about the parks and recreation department advisory board in need of one more member. I pondered it and wondered if I should write a letter of intent to join. I hemmed and hawed at first, but the thought occurred to me, “If not me, who?” I believe we should all have that thought and get involved to make a difference where we can.

And if you don’t think it makes a difference, just ask kids who recently completed a 5K run/walk for the first time and got a nifty wooden medal for their efforts.

I look forward to being on the advisory board and helping to get Wrangell active as much as possible.


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