A great day for a Fun Run at Orion Oaks

Orion Oaks celebrates 20 years

Kristen Leenstra’s and Dr. Susan Dandalides’s Lower El, Neighborhood A classes begin their Fun Run at Orion Oaks.
Kristen Leenstra’s and Dr. Susan Dandalides’s Lower El, Neighborhood A classes begin their Fun Run at Orion Oaks. Photo by Jim Newell.

By Jim Newell
Review Staff Writer
The smiling, sweaty faces, the laughter and joy that comes from running around a grass track – it’s the kind of activity kids love. And teachers and parents, too.
Orion Oaks Elementary held its annual Fun Run fundraiser on Thursday, seeking to raise money for programs, field trips and other activities for the kids.
Last year the Fun Run raised $20,000 from donations and pledges. Totals for this year’s Fun Run had not been tabulated as of press time.
The Fun Runs were scheduled in half-hour increments, with different classes participating each block. All students at Orion Oaks took part in the Fun Run.
Students got pledges from friends and family, either as a flat donation or for the number of laps they complete.
“This is an extra special year, just because it’s our 20th year as a school,” said Principal Ken Nuss.
“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year and our goal is $20,000. It really goes toward anything the teachers need – classroom supplies, field trips,” he said.
Nuss said in past years the school may have had a pet project to put the funds toward, but this year the money is designated for new experiences for the students.
“We want all the money to go to the kids, for field trips or other experiences they might not have, like bringing special guests into the school,” he said.
Jennifer Ritz, a parent volunteer with the Orion Oaks Family Network (PTO) helped organize the Fun Run.
“The Family Network purchased all of the t-shirts for this year’s run,” Ritz said.
“They were so excited to get their Dragon t-shirts this morning,” said Tara Bunn, president of the Orion Oaks Family Network (PTO).
Ritz added that the money raised from previous Fun Runs has been used for special after-school programs, the Halloween get-together, the Winter Party and the Fine Arts Night held in the spring.
Funds have also been used for updating playground equipment and technology purchases and upgrades.
Bunn said that parents volunteer to help at the Fun Run, and help “behind the scenes” by donating the fruit and ice and other refreshments, and helping with all the Orion Oaks activities.
“It’s incredible, the support from all of our parents,” Bunn said, adding that she expected a couple hundred parents would stop by throughout the day to help out – from cheering on the students, to putting rubber bands on the kids’ wrists every time they complete a lap, to tabulating the total number of laps for each runner and updating the pledge sheets.
“It’s been an overwhelming success every year. It’s incredible. We really have a great group of parents at Orion Oaks,” Bunn said.
But, Bunn noted, the focus is on the kids. “They get so excited. They race each other as well as themselves. Their little faces get all hot and red and they have such a great time. It’s really cute.”
Kristen Leenstra, who teaches first and second graders in Lower El Neighborhood A, said the Fun Run is a great activity for the kids, and it fits in well with the Leader in Me program.
Teachers also have used funds from the Fun Run for training so that they can implement the Leader in Me program
The Leader in Me program is based on The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Orion Oaks transforms the principles into The Seven Habits of Happy Kids.
Teachers spend a week on each habit – such as “Thinking win-win” and being proactive – to teach the student positive ways to interact and address issues.
“We put those habits on all the things we do. They love it and they bring it home with them,” Leenstra said. “And having that common vocabulary has really united us as a school.
“The parents really love it, too,” she said.