For five years, the Healthy Kids Running Series has sought to inspire children ages 2-14 to engage in a healthy lifestyle.

The series, which is a national youth running experience, recently wrapped up its five-week in-person racing event at Freedom Park in Belton.

“I think what makes our program special is that running in itself is a type of organic sport, and because of that we’re able to offer a series to every kid at any level,” Tanya Taylor, Healthy Kids Running Series community coordinator, said.

Taylor — who noted that the Health Kids Running Series often creates meaningful relationships within the community — said running is not something that you have to be fast at to succeed in.

“We’re trying to teach kids to believe in themselves, and lead an active healthy lifestyle,” she said. “So we’re trying to incorporate some other activities and educational resources.”

The Healthy Kids Running Series in Belton has offered a five-week program since 2017 and has had more than 2,100 lifetime participants.

“We service Bell County and rural Bell County … and we’re really starting to grow,” Taylor said. “Our very first year we were at about 180 (participants) and we’ve grown to over 300 each series now. I just want to continue to get the community involved.”

Taylor presented sponsors, volunteers and runners who have participated in the event since its inception with awards of special recognition.

Gail Jacobs, Sarah Fry, Casey Gottschalk, Larry Lancaster, Amanda Carrouth, Holly Lamberte, Hollie Krieger and Barb Krieger were recognized for volunteering over 100 hours over the course of 50 weeks of running.

“They’ve come out every week of every series, and invested their time and talents to help out,” Taylor said. “Without them, there’s no way. I think in order for us to have successful race days, we need anywhere from 20 to 30 volunteers available.”

Kona Ice of Central Bell County, Jimmy John’s, Texas Beef Council, Pro-Fit Race Timing Services and Maximize Potential were awarded for their support in the form of sponsorship for the past five years.

Anthony Thomas, Vance Zinn, Lucas Dick, Presely Gottschalk and Isaac Thomas were all presented with the Healthy Kid Award for having participated in eight out of the 10 full five-week series.

The running series will be held again next spring in Belton, with events set March 27, April 3, April 10, April 24 and May 1. Children will have the opportunity to compete in their designated heat age group. Every participant will receive a T-shirt and medal. Registration starts at $35 for the five-week series.

“My goal is just to continue to get the community involved — whether that be sponsorships with local businesses, volunteers, or families coming out to participate,” Taylor said.

For more information about the program, visit www.healthykidsrunningseries.org.