It’s tough to mandate good health, but local leaders—whether in government, business, schools or churches–can do a lot to support healthy behaviors through informal or formal policies. Whether they regulate the use of tobacco in public areas, require healthful foods be served at meetings or promote walking, these policies can ensure a community with a rich culture of wellness. They make the healthy choice the easy choice for each of us. How could the places where you live, learn, work and play promote good health?
Scott Millson’s running days are over—stymied by a nagging arthritic hip that has forced him to find other ways to stay physically active. But his love of the sport lives on, as does his passion for getting local kids to love it too.
The Winter Park resident, and principal for Millson James—an HR Technology Advisory Firm—is the founder and energetic force behind the Fast Start Track & Field Invitational, a free, fun sports event open to all elementary school students at eight schools in Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville.
(These include Aloma, Audubon Park, Brookshire, Cheney, Dommerich, Hungerford, Lake Sybelia and Lakemont elementary schools.)
Held each January or February at Showalter Field in Winter Park, Fast Start was created in the image of a Jacksonville, Florida event Millson participated in during his childhood there. The event inspired his love of running and staying active.
Millson said he would frequently comment to his wife that he wished there was a similar event for his kids locally, and finally, his wife said, “why don’t you do something about it?” He did.
He mustered up sponsors and community volunteers, and the first event was held in January 2006. Some 700 students signed up. Last year’s event had a record 1,100 signups. The 10th annual event is coming up on January 31, 2015 and numbers are expected to grow.
Students begin practicing for the events in PE classes in the fall, and the Healthy School Team Leaders at each school (who often are also the PE instructors) play a key role in promoting the event and signing up children.
On the day of the event, excited students put on T-shirts in their school color, and march together onto the track at Showalter Field carrying a school banner, much like Olympic athletes making their entry during opening ceremonies with music blaring in the background. And then the games begin.
The participants come in all ages, sizes and levels of ability, and smiles abound. Each participant receives a ribbon because the idea is to let children know the joy of physical activity. The emphasis is not on competition.
And many do catch the running bug.
Millson said more than a few of the Fast Start participants from early years are now running on college teams, including his son who runs at Georgia Tech. (All four of his children—and his wife, Kristin—are avid runners.)
And he said he’s talked to Fast Start “grads” now running in high school, and they point to Fast Start as helping them realize how fast they could run and inspiring them.
Fast Start “gives kids an opportunity to do something they wouldn’t normally be able to do,” he said. “It gives them a push.”
The event is now a family affair with all Millsons participating. Millson said he also has had strong continuing support from the community, including the local businesses and foundations who provide financial support. (The Winter Park Health Foundation has supported the event from its launch.)
He hopes the event will continue to grow and take on a life of its own.
But for now, he’s focused on the 10th anniversary event coming up January 31. Planners, he said, are trying to come up with some special twists to mark the special anniversary. Stay tuned!