Although the playground at Fremont Elementary School has recently been the subject of news stories and City Council meetings, it was a site of community cohesion last Friday.
From the beginning to the end of the day, music filled the air and the blacktop was covered with students and families gathered for the school’s annual jog-a-thon.
Each year, the PTA-sponsored event serves as the primary fundraiser for the school and its activities. Youngsters ask sponsors for per-lap pledges or flat donations to support their participation. Volunteers hand out colorful event T-shirts and tally the laps of the runners while scores of proud parents line the course and cheer.
The funds raised, which generally total around $50,000 according to event chair Christine Scott-Hayward, are used to fund enrichment opportunities like Meet the Masters, field trips, reading clubs and a theater program.
“It’s a great example of people coming together to value and help support our kids’ public school education,” Scott-Hayward said.
“Fremont is not a Title 1 school,” second grade teacher Rebecca Shelly said, “so this is a great way for the school to get some extra money.”
For the past two years, the jog-a-thon has also had a second unifying theme: Down syndrome Awareness. In the fall of 2018, Zoe McCabe entered Fremont as a kindergartner with a huge heart, an infectious grin, and Down syndrome. Sensing an opportunity to help youngsters embrace differences in others, Zoe’s mother asked Fremont runners to wear mismatched socks as a symbol of inclusion and acceptance during the 2018 event. And many did.
This year, the jog-a-thon was scheduled to take place in October, which happens to be Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Due to the heat, the event had to be postponed from Oct. 25 to Nov. 8, however the underlying message of awareness remained and many students showed up wearing mismatched socks.
“It’s a fun, positive way to show our support,” said Amanda Stuart, mother of first grader Crew Stewart. “It gets our kids involved in a tangible way. Not only do they wear the socks, but they understand why they are wearing them, which is great.”
Crew proudly sported one orange striped leg and one green striped leg as he raced around the track 19 times.
Carrie Scanlon, another first grade mom, agreed and pointed to her daughter Ireland’s mismatched Monsters, Inc. knee-highs.
“It helps our kids and educates them,” Scanlon said. “This gives parents an opportunity to talk to their kids and teach them about something that’s important.”
Dr. Cassandra Richards, Principal of Fremont Elementary, said that Zoe is well loved on the Fremont campus.
“The kids here know her and look out for her,” Richards said. “She is very popular with the fifth grade reading buddies.”
Wearing mismatched socks and a big smile, Zoe circled the jog-a-thon track with her classmates. Some children ran quickly, and some walked, but they all went around together.