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Powassan school class running for community causes

A Grade 7 and 8 class at Mapleridge Public School in Powassan is attempting to run across Canada.

While they won’t be leaving the confines of Powassan, Patti Phillips’ class of 23 students has committed to running every day, tallying up each student’s distance and adding it to what would have been Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope route.

It all began in September when Phillips pitched the 40 for 40 Challenge to her class in recognition of the 40 year anniversary of the Marathon of Hope. The challenge simply required the students to run 40 minutes per day for a week.

“The first day they were pretty excited. On Tuesday, they were still pretty excited. By Wednesday, they looked like they didn’t want to run anymore,” Phillips recalled.

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When she saw her class’s motivation begin to dwindle, Phillips decided to add up the distance they collectively ran at that point, which would have taken them from Powassan to Barrie (approx. 220 km).

“That put it all into context for them and they really pushed themselves for the rest of the week,” Phillips said.

Following the week of running, a student of Phillips who had taken up running during the pandemic suggested the class enter the 42 km Toronto Waterfront Marathon. The class collectively ran the marathon and will be receiving a medal and T-shirt for doing so.

From there, the class became hooked on running. Phillips began mapping out the Marathon of Hope and had her students pick out different cities they wanted to stop in. The students then researched their city, were given a budget for different activities to do if they were to visit, and were tasked to photoshop themselves into a picture of their location.

“Everyone is on board,” Phillips said. “Nobody is on the sidelines complaining and not wanting to.”

While they continue to run, the class has also committed to spreading awareness for different causes. In September, they chose the Terry Fox Foundation for cancer research. Now, they’re looking to support the Powassan Legion’s Poppy Campaign, with plans to support Sick Kids Hospital in December.

“We decided rather than focusing on one fundraiser, every month we’d post awareness about different local needs that had to be met,” Phillips explained.

Phillips is no stranger to getting her class involved in the community. For the past six years, she has come up with different ways for her class to become involved with a cause of some sort.

“I start with something that I have in mind, I pitch it to them and they always come up with something phenomenal,” she said.

Phillips says in past years, her classes have helped shovel driveways around town, learned to knit scarves for those in need, and raised money for children in impoverished countries.

“Every year, I’m always blown away. If you give them the opportunity, they’ll run with it,” she stated.
Phillips hopes that what her students learn in her class will set them up for success in the future.

“They can do amazing things at their age. They get blown away by what they accomplish. At first, they think it’s an insurmountable feat, and then they realize they can do this. I hope it gives them a starting point to becoming leaders in the future in continuing to do things like that,” said Phillips.

As the winter months loom, Phillips says that she will still run with her students. The gymnasium at Mapleridge Public School recently reopened, so she plans to measure out the class’s distance inside, while still running outside when they can.

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