Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fargo? You Betcha!

"You're going to Fargo?" people asked me. "Why?" And yeah, my initial reaction to an invitation to do school visits in Fargo, ND was lukewarm at best. That's not because of the movie Fargo or because Judy, the LMS inviting me, said "Oh, ya" and "You betcha!" (as I haven't seen the movie, and she did not). It was because after years of traveling to do school visits, I've learned that getting there is the hard part, and I knew that getting to Fargo would not be easy. Besides, isn't it flat? And cold? And...what's to see? But then Judy told me the plan. The three middle schools in Fargo would all do the Exercise the Right to Read program and time it so that it ended the weekend of the Fargo Marathon. Each student who completed the program would receive an ETRTR t-shirt (in their school’s color) and they wanted me to give presentations at each of the schools during the week and then run the 5K portion of the marathon-day programming with kids from all the schools on Saturday. Suddenly Fargo seemed like an awesome place to visit. So after some intense planning, the event went off last May without a hitch. What an amazing sight to see an MPR full of yellow ETRTR shirts one day, blue the next, and gray on the third. And on Saturday morning students and staff (and even the superintendent!) from all the schools came out in their ETRTR t-shirts and made a BIG statement as we trucked through the 5K together, ending up in the Fargo Dome alongside runners from all over the world. Everyone had a great time, and felt a real sense of accomplishment. One boy told me he “never finishes stuff like this” but was so glad he did. I get the feeling he’ll be “a finisher” from here on. Budgets across the country are in crisis – if you want to do the ETRTR program as a fundraiser for your school, that’s how it’s designed. But if you just want to do it to get your kids reading and running, that’s fine, too. All the content on the website ( ) is free—it’s there because we want to help, so adapt it any way that helps you and your school. And remember, I’m not the only running author – if you like the idea of tying the program to an author visit and your town’s local run, by all means invite your favorite local author. Our goal is to get kids running and reading and anyone who wants to help is welcome! As for my new friends in Fargo, we've stayed in touch and I'm delighted to tell you that Judy--who was pretty much a a "non runner" a couple of years ago -- ran her very first marathon today. Am I proud of her? You betcha! Would I go back to Fargo? Oh, ya!

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