"It's kind of fun, and they say it's healthy, so that's why I'm doing it," said Kevin, 6, a Gehringer Elementary School first-grader.
Regardless of their inspirations, students of all shapes and sizes, ambitions and energy, are putting their best foot - or feet - forward, thanks to an innovative program called the BEe Healthy Challenge.
The eight-week health and wellness program is a cooperative effort of the city of Oakley and local health specialists designed to entice children and adults into reaping the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. All five of the Oakley Union School District primary grades are participating in the event.
"Think well, move well and eat well. Those are the only three things we really have control over in our lives," said Dr. Rick Junilla, owner of Lifestyle Fitness Center in Oakley and the founder of the BEe Healthy Challenge. "It's about people making informed choices about their health."
For many students like those at Gehringer, the inducement to develop a healthier lifestyle comes from learning about good nutrition and the benefits of daily exercise.
But incentives also come in the form of Popsicle sticks. Each time Gehringer students complete three laps around the track (which equals a mile), they receive a popsicle stick. When participants collect a total of 26 sticks, they will have run the equivalent distance of a marathon, and will be presented with a special award by Oakley Mayor Bruce Connelley during a ceremony at the end of the two-month program.
"What's great about this program is that it gives kids something healthy to do; it doesn't cost anything and they can walk or run, and be with their friends," said Gehringer Principal Janie Buckman of the lunchtime program. "We also have wonderful, wonderful parent volunteers who are running this here. There is no way we could have done the program without them; we just wouldn't have enough adults, so they are a big part of all this."
In addition to the elementary school portion of the program, the BEe Healthy Challenge includes a series of free weekly lectures presented by physicians and related specialists from John Muir Health and the Brentwood Surgery Center. The Wednesday evening talks are held at the Oakley Civic Center. Topics include heart health, cholesterol screening and general nutrition.
"It's really taken off much faster and with more participation than we could have imagined," said Leeann Lorono, who represents the city of Oakley in the program. "We've had lots of great volunteers … Next year will be even better, I'm sure."
However, for 8-year-old Breanna, the real appeal of the BEe Healthy Challenge is the opportunity to shake hands with the mayor.
"I want to meet him (Oakley mayor). I think that would be fun," said Breanna, who is already about halfway to her marathon goal. "I want to see what a mayor looks like."
For more information on the BEe Healthy Challenge, contact Leeann Lorono at 625-7011.