When Kelly Favreau and her son Kailon Moore hit Broad Street this Sunday for the Broad Street Run, the race will mean so much more than a competition about who gets to the finish line faster. For this mother and son duo, it's about finding their own paths to happier, healthier lives.
When Kelly Favreau first moved to Philadelphia from Albany, NY, she was worried about her son, Kailon Moore, making friends. He tends to be shy, and at his new school in Bella Vista, he was having trouble making connections with the other kids. That's when she learned about Students Run Philly Style, a non-profit organization started in 2004 to use long distance running and mentorship to transform young people's lives, and signed Moore up.
Students Run Philly Style
"Our mission is to help our young people reveal their inner strength as they work towards running a half or full marathon," said Heather McDanel, founder of Students Run Philly Style.
Student Run Philly has 55 teams throughout the city and they operate out of various neighborhoods and schools. Currently there are 900 students in the program. The kids are lead by a volunteer team leader who trains with them 3-4 times a week and on Saturdays all the participating schools in a particular neighborhood gather for a run.
Team leaders do so much more than just help their students with their running program though. They are mentors, offering an extra ear to discuss troubles at home and at school, or offering to help them with writing college essays or learning how to drive.
Many of the team leaders are also parents of kids on the team. Favreau is a team leader on her son's team.
McDanel said that while they have always had parental involvement, in the last few years, there have been more parents signing up to be team leaders. "Adults participating side by side with the youth, struggling together, learning the same lessons…it is very powerful."
"They are not just a coach on the sideline. I don't know of any other model where that happens," she added.
Since starting to run with the team out of the Academy of Palumbo four years ago, Moore has found a place where he feels like he fits in. Now at seventeen, not only does he have a team full of friends and a girlfriend who he is going to prom with, but he has found a sport that he excels in.
"Kailon won a medal at the Philadelphia Marathon last year in his age group. This is where he shines," Favreau said.
"Kailon usually reaches the finish line before most of his team, but he likes to go back and run in everyone. It is something that Student Run Philly takes pride in," she explained.
"Watching him with the team is the best feeling a parent can have. The team is family; no one judges. I can't say enough of the leaders who give up their time for free. I wish every school had a team."
This will be the fourth Broad Street Run for Moore, but Favreau's first. She began running with the group two years ago and this is her first year as a team leader.
"I was asked by Eric Wiseman who is also a Student Run Philly team leader at Palumbo because I was going to all practices and had a good relationship with the other kids on the team. "
Moore had first run with Wiseman at Philadelphia High School for Business & Technology. Moore attends Franklin Learning Center where there isn't a Student Run Philly team, but he was able to join Wiseman's team and follow him when he started to teach at the Academy of Palumbo.
Aside from all of the positive changes Favreau has seen in her son, she has also found that she has been transformed as well.
Through Students Run Philly Style, her relationship with her son is stronger.
"We speak a lot more now on the way to practice and to races. When you have teenagers, they usually just hang out in their room, but Kailon has become more open to me."
And so is her health.
"When I quit smoking after 18 years, he challenged me to beat him at the next marathon. He beat me, but he still pushes me to keep going. I am appreciative of that. It is a great feeling to see him at the finish line, smirking at me."
Favreau is very excited about her first Broad Street Run with her son. "He will be at the finish line like three hours before me, but I will be there. It is amazing enough that I can keep up with teenagers."
They have both been taking their training seriously for this Sunday's race. At the Philadelphia Marathon, Moore injured his knee though so he has had to run a little slower during training in order to be in good shape for the 10 miler.
"I can't run real hard this year because of the injury, but I am trying to get under an hour and 9 minutes," he said
Look for Kelly Favreau and Kailon Moore and their teammates in their Students Run Philly Style shirts at Sunday's race. About 800 students will be running in the Broad Street Run like they do every year.
For McDanel, it's important that people recognize the positive things Philly youth are doing. "They are getting up at 5 a.m. on Sunday to run 10 miles. This is what our city's youth look like."
Stay tuned here for more coverage of the 2015 Broad Street Run.