HELENA — Hundreds of kids from around the Helena area got moving Saturday morning for an annual event promoting fun and fitness.
They took part in the 16th annual Family Fun Fest, organized by St. Peter’s Health and PacificSource Health Plans.
“A lot of people think of hospitals and clinics as places to go when you’re sick, but where we really want to invest for our community is in the health and wellness of it,” said Dr. Shelly Harkins, St. Peter’s chief medical officer.
The event began with a mile-long race around Centennial Park. More than 500 kids were registered to take part. Among them were 5-year-old Zayn and 3-year-old Asher Lecce, taking part for the first time.
“I moved my arms, and that was how I ran very fast,” said Zayn.
Jerilyn Lecce, Zayn and Asher’s mother, said her older children had participated in the fun run a number of times, and she was glad to introduce her younger children this year.
“It’s just fun to be able to run as a family,” she said. “The Goverrnor’s Cup is a little bit too far for them to be able to do, but this one’s just the perfect distance.”
The top three finishers in the race won free memberships to the Capital City Health Club.
After the race, the Fun Fest continued with a health fair at the Great Northern Town Center. It included a variety of games and activities, from street hockey to a dunk tank. Experts in helmet safety gave away about 200 free helmets to kids in attendance.
“We’ve got healthy activities, free backpacks, lots of healthy snacks – so a good time to come out for a few hours with the family,” said Harkins.
Jerilyn Lecce said Zayn and Asher’s favorite activity was the bounce house.
“They think that it’s not a party unless there’s a bouncy house there,” she said.
Harkins said organizers put this event together every year as a way to get kids active early.
“We know that staying fit and staying healthy means you keep moving, and if you do that with family, you’re more likely to keep doing it for your whole life,” she said. “So what we hope that they will learn from this is that going for a morning run for just a mile is exactly what you need to do to stay healthy for life.”
Jerilyn Lecce agreed about the importance of starting early.
“Our older kids, they started with little races like this one, and then once they got bigger, they kept running.”