Running for Childhood Health: Finding Our Stride Supports CHaD HERO

picture of runners
Runners from the White River School in White River Junction, VT, donate to a local food pantry.

Some of our teams organized coin drives or bake sales for their donations. It’s amazing to think they were ranked the third highest CHaD HERO fundraising team that year!

Jenny Williams

When Jenny Williams started the nonprofit Finding Our Stride program in 2011, she could never have imagined how it would positively impact both the children it serves—and those who receive care at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD). While Finding Our Stride is a free running program of gender-specific or co-ed teams in underprivileged Upper Valley elementary and middle schools, its participants have become top donors to the CHaD HERO, CHaD’s main fundraising event.

The program joined the CHaD HERO as a team in 2016—quickly becoming a popular annual event. “One of the most fulfilling things about the season was how excited the boys were about the CHaD HERO and how hard they tried to do their best,” says a Finding Our Stride coach.

In 2019, the teams enthusiastically agreed to raise $10 each if participating in the Cam’s Course One Mile Fun Run, and $50 if competing in the 5K. Ultimately, the 465 runners raised more than $22,000—which was matched by one of Finding Our Stride’s major funders, Norwich Partners, LLC. This turned Finding Our Stride’s CHaD HERO donation into an impressive $45,000 that year.

“The CHaD HERO helps the kids feel a connection to the community—even if they come from modest means,” Williams explains. “Some of our teams organized coin drives or bake sales for their donations. It’s amazing to think they were ranked the third highest CHaD HERO fundraising team that year!”

picture of South Royalton school runners
South Royalton School Finding Our Stride runners practice on the playground.

Opportunities for all children

A lifelong runner who ran for Dartmouth College as an undergraduate student and served as coach to her son’s cross-country team, Williams appreciates how running can benefit children. When she realized some local kids couldn’t afford to participate in existing running programs—and some schools couldn’t even offer them—she founded Finding Our Stride with professional 5K/10K runner Ben True. Their first team was at Indian River Middle School in Canaan, NH, and today there are teams in 24 Upper Valley schools.

Finding Our Stride works to improve fitness, boost self-esteem and encourage teamwork among its participants. There are two, six-to-eight-week seasons per school year, and between 80 and 90 percent of coaches are school personnel. Coaches receive training in practice structure and a nutrition program taught to runners during stretching and snack breaks.

runners from Dothan Brook School
Dothan Brook School Finding Our Stride runners.

The program is completely free to students and schools, including race registration fees, and coaches receive a modest stipend. Vouchers for free running sneakers are provided discreetly to families on a referral basis and are redeemable in stores in Claremont, NH, White River Junction and Bradford, VT. Finding Our Stride is funded by Norwich Partners, LLC, the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, the Couch Family Foundation, the Jane B. Cook Trust, Mascoma Savings Bank, King Arthur Baking Company, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Vermont Community Foundation and many generous individual donors.

2021 event for CHaD HERO

With Finding Our Stride teams getting started in mid-September, Williams worked with CHaD to develop a separate event to provide more time to fundraise past the CHaD HERO dates of September 19-26, 2021. Finding Our Stride’s CHaD HERO fundraiser will feature a one- to three-mile run on Sunday, October 24 at 10 am at Hanover’s Storrs Pond. The community is welcome to join the organization’s teams, donors and board members as children run to raise funds for their peers.

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