Monumental Kids Movement inspires children

INDIANAPOLIS - The Monumental Mile provides an early-summer fitness test of endurance, giving marathoners an opportunity to see how close they are to reaching goals.

Thursday's race is inspiring a new crop of runners, teaching them about health and the gift of giving.

With each sprint, participants in the Monumental Kids Movement are learning the importance of fitness, diet and healthy living.

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"I get to learn new things, and it's basically training myself," said Kaliya Henderson, a 6th-grade student at Jonathan Jennings School No. 109. "I get to get better at running."

Henderson is one of about 20 children at the school who prepared for the Monumental Mile, getting up early twice a week before school to join her classmates in training.

"It's fun, and it works on my running skills," said student Daniel Ayala.

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Ayala's smile was on indication of how much the children enjoy taking part.

"We always make sure to run one day, at least one day, whether it's in the neighborhood or at the school," said Craig Huljak, the students' coach. "Somehow, they have to run stairs or something. We get the heart pumping."

In March, the children wrote letters to children at Riley Hospital for Children and enclosed medals they had received for running.

"My grandfather died of cancer, so I thought it would be nice to give them something to motivate them," Henderson said.

"They make me unbelievably proud," Huljak said. "Kids have to put up with a lot of stuff. It's hard for them to get here. A lot of them have a hard life. They don't have a lot, and they come here and give it 100 percent every single time. That's impressive for a kid."

Jonathan Jennings School No. 109 is one of three schools participating in the Monumental Kids Movement, a program the school's principal said helps with both fitness and academics.

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