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Kids keep fit during Cliff Hanger Run

Nick Pettit (upper left), a second-grade teacher at Scuola Vita Nuova charter school, ran to the finish line with seventh-graders Dinson Do (left) and Julian Ortiz in the 29th annual Cliff Hanger Run on Sunday. The Fit Doctors Association, a student organization at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, partnered with elementary school children from Scuola Vita Nuova, Garfield Elementary and Gladstone Elementary to train for the race.
Nick Pettit (upper left), a second-grade teacher at Scuola Vita Nuova charter school, ran to the finish line with seventh-graders Dinson Do (left) and Julian Ortiz in the 29th annual Cliff Hanger Run on Sunday. The Fit Doctors Association, a student organization at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, partnered with elementary school children from Scuola Vita Nuova, Garfield Elementary and Gladstone Elementary to train for the race. Special to the Star

The trio of runners may not have started Sunday’s Cliff Hanger Run together, but they crossed the finish line hand in hand.

Megan Collins joined third-graders Jennifer Guzman and Piol Kon during the 3.1-mile jaunt through the winding route along the scenic, tree-lined Cliff Drive in Kansas City’s Northeast area during the 29th annual race.

This year Collins, a second-year medical student, and other members of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and the Fit Doctors Association trained kids from three elementary schools for the race that helped raise money for Northeast Neighbor to Neighbor, a nonprofit organization that provides medical access and other services to underserved families.

“We hooked up about a quarter of a mile into the race, and we just helped each other,” said Collins, president of the student group and one of 12 medical students who worked with the students.

Piol said the windy conditions and chilly temperatures made the run challenging but enjoyable.

“It was kind of hard because we had to run for a long time,” he said.

But his running partner, Jennifer, had a slightly different perspective: “It was fun because I was passing everybody and we helped each other.”

University students worked with third- through eighth-grade students at Scuola Vita Nuova, Garfield and Gladstone elementary schools leading up to the race. The after-school mentoring sessions focused on developing healthy lifestyles. Games and other physical activities were incorporated with the race training.

The university bought running shoes for each of the 70 children who participated in the mentoring program. From that group, about 30 students ran in Sunday’s race.

“These two did awesome today, and I hope that they had fun and that exercise becomes incorporated into their daily life because it is so important,” said Collins, who is president of the school’s Fit Doctors Association.

Sunday’s race drew about 1,000 runners for the 5K and 8K competitions. Organizers expected to raise about $10,000.

Holding the annual event on the medical school’s campus and raising money for area groups further enhances the university’s commitment to northeast Kansas City and surrounding communities, said Marc B. Hahn, university president and chief executive officer.

“We’re also proud of our students who took the initiative to mentor children of the neighborhood, teaching them the importance of physical activity and maintaining good health,” Hahn said. “Community service, as well as clinical service, are underlying foundations for excellent physicians and scientists to build upon.”

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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