The success stories coming out of the Windermere Running Club have caught the attention of Kintec Footwear, who recently came on as a generous partner of the Vancouver Police Foundation and the Windermere Running Club.
Founded in 2017 by VPD Constable Mariya Zhalovaga, School Liaison Officer for Windermere Secondary, the running club provides a supportive and educational running environment for 48 students and counting. The purpose of the club is to give vulnerable high school students a sense of community, to teach and reinforce qualities of good character such, as perseverance and goalsetting, and to use running as a way to manage physical and mental health.
“Through the running club I want to teach the students a healthy way of coping with stress,” said Cst Zhalovaga. “I want them to create positive connections and I want to keep them away from negative lifestyles and affiliations. Many students in high schools don’t fit in to a specific peer group and the running club gives them a sense of belonging. It gives them a sense of family.”
Kintec is completely aligned with Cst Z’s passion to support these students in this unique way. After their staff took the time to expertly fit each student, Kintec recently visited Windermere Secondary with an incredible donation of technical running shoes for all 48 students.
“It was a perfect opportunity for Kintec help,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, Head of Product and Innovation for Kintec. “By providing specialty run footwear with great functional elements it will make it easier for the students to run and to meet their performance goals. What is so great about this club is the solidarity that all the students have by running as a group and we want the kids to feel as comfortable as possible.”
Not only is Kintec donating 48 pairs of technical running shoes to the students in the running club, they are also providing ongoing expert training advice and they will be there to address any injury concerns along the way as well. Kintec also believes in the important role that running has on mental health and self-esteem.
“There is a significant mental health benefit to any kind of endurance exercise. Running will help the students with depression and anxiety, it will help with their ability to focus and will help them academically.” Dr. Ryan added that most students in the running club have already experienced success with these.
For Grade 9 Windermere student Neeko, the running club has not only taught him goalsetting and perseverance, it has also provided him a place where he fits in, where he has made friends and where he can be comfortable socializing. Neeko lives with autism and struggled in his previous school in each of these areas. Now he feels accepted and included.
I really like the social interaction and the motivation I get from the running club. I’ve learned how to pace myself and keep my stamina. I’ve also learned how to talk to people. It’s so nice to have fun with so many people supporting you. Constable Z has taught me to always keep going. She is a really good role model. – Neeko, Grade 9 student
Neeko’s mom, Cassandra, has seen a huge difference in her son’s life since he joined the Windermere Running Club almost two years ago.
“It has been truly amazing,” says Cassandra. “The running club has had a huge impact on Neeko, from his health to his attitude to his determination to his drive to do his schoolwork, it’s just awesome. It was magical to see how Constable Z captivated Neeko so quickly and continues to motivate and support him in any way possible. I am so grateful for that.”
When Neeko and his fellow running club members received their new shoes from Kintec, it reinforced the notion that they belong to something meaningful and that they are whole-heartedly supported.
“Kintec’s partnership really makes them feel included,” added Cassandra. “It makes them feel part of a community and that they’re cared for. I very grateful for the opportunity that Kintec is providing the kids.”
For Cst Zhalovaga the partnership with Kintec reinforces the importance of the running club and also provides an incredible opportunity for students to receive proper footwear who otherwise would not be able to afford it.
“So many students here have worn-out shoes,” Constable Zhalovaga explained. “Many families experience financial challenges so they can’t afford to buy a pair of $200 running shoes. Just to see their faces light up knowing that they will have proper shoes is huge. The generosity and kindness that Kintec is providing is something the kids will remember for years to come. This partnership means a great deal to me and to the running club.”
Kintec believes that the Windermere Running Club is an example is how effective running can be for this age group. Dr. Ryan and his staff are impressed with the dedication of both Constable Zhalovaga and the students and they look forward to working alongside the Windemere Running Club.
Constable Z has done a fabulous job of incubating a positive running culture in this school and in this surrounding community. Kintec is very happy to be a part of it.
The Vancouver Police Foundation is so grateful for Kintec, Cst. Zhalovaga and all the other VPF grant recipients who put their heart and soul into programs like this.
You can help! Click here to support the VPF and help the kids achieve their goals.