lockportlegend.com Life & Arts the Lockport Legend | April 12, 2018 | 17 Lockport family plays important role in youth running program Jacquelyn Schlabach Assistant Editor The Esquivels from Lockport all have one thing in common: running. Robert participates in halfmarathons and marathons, and his wife, Rebecca, joins him on Saturdays for their running club. In the last year, their 5-year-old daughter, Graysen, began to follow in their footsteps and lace up her own sneakers to participate in the Healthy Kids Running Series in Homer Glen. The series, which features five races over five weeks, began Sunday, April 8, and will continue for the next four Sundays at Stonebridge Park. “My husband was running marathons and half-marathons, and [Graysen] loved to go watch,” Rebecca said. “She always runs with him to get his medal, so she’ll run the last 75 feet or so, whatever she can. So when [the Healthy Kids Running Series] came up, it was like, ‘This is yours, you can do this for yourself,’ and she loved it.” Graysen participated in the series’ inaugural year in Homer Glen in 2017, competing and winning her division in the 50-yard dash. Children in pre-K run the 50-yard dash, while kindergartners and first-graders run a quarter of a mile. Secondand-third-grade students run a half mile, with the fourthand fifth-graders running a full mile. “I know when I was a kid, it was always, ‘Well, when you’re older;’ everything was for when you were older,” Rebecca said. “We were in sports, but just things like running, running races and stuff that was more for when you got older. I think just instilling that in a lifestyle in The trophies designed for this year’s Healthy Kids Running Series will go to the top finisher in each age division at the end of the five races. a family environment makes it something that’ll stay with them forever that it’s got to be done.” Homer Glen resident Cindy Flores is the community coordinator for the event and helped get it started last year. The series is held twice a year, once in the spring, and once in the fall. In 2017, there were 130 children who participated between both. Currently, there are about 70 children signed up for this year’s spring series. “The kids love it, and I just wanted to provide an opportunity for them to be healthy and experience running and get excited about it,” Flores said. Flores, an avid runner herself, is excited to see the same children return from last year and see the progress they have made since they Five-year-old Graysen Esquivel crosses the finish line at the spring 2017 Healthy Kids Running Series race held in Homer Glen. Photos submitted last participated. “It’s really a way to get the community together and get to know people, and you know, parents love it,” she said. The Healthy Kids Running Series has brought the Esquivel family together, as Rebecca, Robert and their two older children, 14-year-old, Brayden, and 16-year-old, Sebastian, volunteer together to help put on the races. “Cindy and her husband put so much work into this already, just to hold it, and we’re so grateful that she does do it,” Rebecca said. “If we’re there anyway, we might as well help out, if they need it.” The family will help with timing the races, setting up the course and registering children the day of the race. “We always need volunteers — always,” Flores said. Those who volunteer can also get service hours for helping out with the Healthy Kids Running Series. Among the various tasks the Esquivels help out with, volunteers will also direct the children along the routes and lead stretching exercises before each division race. At the end of the fifth race in the series, parents are welcome to participate in a free, one-mile race, where their children can cheer them on from the sidelines. Graysen’s father, Robert, did just that last spring and fall. “For [Graysen], [running] is us,” Rebecca said. “This is what we do. She doesn’t really know anything different than that, because we’ve always done it that way.” Parents can register their children online at www. healthykidsrunningseries. org/race_locations/homerglen-il-2/. The cost is $35 for the whole series, or $10 per race. “It’s a lot of work for just those five days, but [Flores] does a great job with it,” Rebecca said.