San Clemente, Calif. -- Combat boots and Velcro shoes tore up the track at Concordia Elementary School as Marines and students participated in the 6th annual Jogathon.
“We’re out here to motivate the kids,” said Lt. Col. Samuel P. Pelham, the Deputy of Community Plans and Liaison Office, who along with almost 30 Marines from the Deployment Processing Command, showed their support for the school March 2.
Students spent the previous two weeks gathering pledges from people in the community that will pay them for every lap they run, explained Susan Goggins, the copresident of the Parent Teacher Association.
“As the kids complete each lap, they get a tally mark on the sheets they have pinned on their backs,” explained Goggins, a San Clemente resident with two daughters at the school.
As the first wave of elementary school kids tore onto the course, their tally sheets dangling off their backs, they were greeted by the Marines from DPC in their desert camouflage utilities who helped them with their stretches and motivated them to run.
The excitement reached its climax when the announcer kicked off the start of the run and the kids raced off from their respective stations, burning the energy that only an elementary-aged child can possess.
More than 600 student runners from the school were divided based on their class. Second and third graders started first, followed by the kindergarten and first graders, and the fourth and fifth graders finished it off.
Water was provided along the way, and with the help of Marines running alongside the kids and cheering them on, the students completed their laps after 20 minutes of running.
After the run, students and family members relaxed and took part in the Read Across America program inside the classrooms and on the playground.
“There are healthy snacks that are provided to the kids so they can relax while reading Dr. Seuss books with their classmates and parents,” explained Goggins.
While helping out their school, participating students also enjoyed spending time with the Marines. Even after the run was completed, the energetic youngsters were still excited.
“It was really fun running with the Marines,” said Taylor L. Bonghi, a third grader at the school. “I kind of kept up with them,” said the eight-year-old who completed 18 laps.
On top of raising money for their school, the students also helped out the Marines who volunteered their time.
“Volunteering for this allows the community to see the other side of the Marines and see that we are involved with the community,” said Gunnery Sgt. Felton D. Turnage, the Operations Chief for the DPC. “It’s one of the best things we can do as Marines.”
The school was also thankful to have the local Marines’ help during the event.
“We’re extremely happy for the Marines to be here and show their support to the local community,” Goggins said.
Encouragement and excited yells could be heard from the Marines who ran with the kids and helped them out.
The motivation by the Marines was surpassed only by the cries of elation from the children who enjoyed their time at the field day.
“The kids make it that much better,” said Sgt. David D. Saavedra, an administration clerk with the DPC. “I didn’t think they’d be that excited,” said the 27-year-old from South Gate, Calif.