Modesto and Turlock students and police officers have kicked off 10K With a Cop, a program that will continue through the school year to promote health and wellness, as well as positive relationships between kids and law enforcement.
The first training run, of 1 mile, was held Saturday at Shackelford Elementary School off Crows Landing Road. Principal Sue McHann estimated 150 children participated from Shackelford and six other schools: Bret Harte, Wilson, Rose Avenue, Beard and Marshall, all in Modesto, and Cunningham in Turlock.
Before they gathered at the starting line, cops chatted with kids and parents. They led the children in stretches, push-ups and jumping jacks. They accepted challenges, with one cop showing the prized pen he’d surrender if the boy who vowed to beat him across the finish line did so.
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First child across the finish line Saturday was 10-year-old Cesar Bojoquez of Wilson Elementary, who did the mile in about 6 minutes, 21 seconds. At the end, he was neck and neck with Gustavo Duran, assistant principal at Bret Harte Elementary.
Future training runs of increasing distances at other participating schools will lead up to the 10K — that’s 6.2 miles — in May.
Modesto police Detective Sean Dodge said the seed for 10K With a Cop was planted a couple years back after he, Turlock PD Lt. Neil Cervenka and Stanislaus sheriff’s Capt. Jim Gordon ran a half marathon in full uniform and gear. Someone from Marshall asked Dodge if he’d be willing to run with students there from time to time, so he began doing so on days off.
“I’ve joined forces with a group in L.A., called Run to Remember Los Angeles, and he said he’d like to make it a bigger thing — a full 10K with law enforcement and kids. I was open to it, so I said I would check with schools and look for officers to do it on their own time, no on the taxpayers’ dime.”
Dodge and Cervenka wound up being among the co-founders of 10K With a Cop.
Each of the seven local schools has a designated law enforcement officer as a partner, McHann said. At Shackelford, there also are advisers who are available to run with the kids after school on Mondays through Thursdays. It’s essentially a running club on campus, she said, and kids have to run at least two of the four days each week.
McHann anticipates Hanshaw and Burbank schools joining 10K With a Cop. She would like to bring many more campuses on board, but needs police partners to do so.
“The whole purpose is to build a community, positive relationships with law enforcement,” McHann said. If you go to schools in some parts of Modesto, she said, you’ll find children’s views of police are more negative than in other parts.
Dodge agreed. The nature of police work is that it usually involves negative contact, and children see that when the subjects of investigations are family members or friends.
One nice thing about the running program, he said, is that it allows officers to “take down the walls” that are up during investigations and spend time with kids in a different environment. “We’re officers, but we’re human beings, too, who are interested in fitness.”
While the focus started in south and west Modesto schools, McHann said she would like 10K With a Cop to continue annually and eventually include all Modesto City Schools elementary schools.
Each training run this school year will include an educational component. Saturday’s theme was nutrition, and the blacktop at Shackelford was dotted with booths offering a variety of healthy foods.
The theme at next month’s run, Dodge said, will be overcoming obstacles, and the children will hear from one runner who is blind, and another racer who uses a wheelchair.
For more on 10K With a Cop, go to www.10kwithacop.org/programs.