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Run For Education helps Bonner Elementary keep class sizes lower

There are a lot of reasons people run — for fun, for health or both. At Bonner Elementary School, they run for education.

Bonner’s third annual Run For Education 5K run and 1.5-mile fun walk is set to start 9 a.m. March 8 at its campus, 765 Crestdale Lane. Walk-ups can register beginning at 8 a.m.

The cost is $25 for adults and $15 for youths 11 or younger. Early registration includes an event T-shirt. To sign up, visit schools.ccsd.net/bonner.

The fun is set to continue after the race until about noon with vendor booths, a DJ, face painting, a silent auction and free temporary tattoos.

A big part of the event is that principal Paul Catania participates in the run, despite the fact that he is not normally a runner.

“I egg the kids on for a month beforehand,” he said. “I tell them that I’m pretty much the fastest person in the world. Of course, by about the second block, I’m huffing and puffing, and I don’t know if I can finish.”

About half the school’s staff members participate in the run.

After working one’s heart, they finish at the school, where vendors offer fare such as pizza, cotton candy and hot dogs.

The event originted because “we were smack dab in the middle of some sizable budget cuts,” Catania said. “We wanted to maintain low class sizes for students, so we thought, ‘Hey, let’s do something fun and at the same time raise some money.’ … It really took off and has been a huge success.”

The first year saw about $40,000 raised with 600 participants. The second, $43,000, with more than 700 participants. For this year, Catania said, he’s hoping to raise $75,000 with 1,000 participants.

Not all the money comes from the registration. There are also donors who step up to the plate. All the money goes to increase personnel staff. Using the fun run money combined with the proceeds from its chocolate bar fundraiser, the school has gained a teacher.

“Whatever the district’s class sizes are, we try to go under that,” Catania said. “Typically … in (kindergarten through second grade), you’ll have lower class sizes. Then it grows in third, fourth and fifth (grades). We believe low class sizes benefit all students, so we try to maintain class sizes across the board.”

He said enrollment has jumped lately, with about 100 more students this year than last.

“We want to preserve the education that we feel the students deserve,” Catania said. “ … We can never do enough for our kids.”

The first year saw a plethora of start-up activities to put it on — designing a logo, printing banners, finding sponsors, approaching companies for donating in-kind gifts.

“The first year, what did we learn? We learned that we can run a business here,” Catania joked. “No, really, it was a learning experience for all of us.”

It included getting permits for the event, blocking off roads and arranging for a police presence.

Kristi O’Donnell, first-grade teacher, is in charge of donations and sponsors. She said people are receptive to donating in-kind gifts for the silent auction.

“We have a parent here who works over at the JW Marriott, so we get a dinner and spa package and room from them,” O’Donnell said.

Businesses sponsors get their logo on the race T-shirts and banners. Their promotional pieces go into the goodie bags that are handed out, and they are recognized on the website.

“We’re more likely to go to Coffee Bean (for coffee) because they do so much for our school,” O’Donnell said.

Catania said it was only right to steer business its way. The staff members pay attention to who supports the school.

“We have parents who own Senor Frog’s inside Treasure Island. They’re sponsors,” Catania said. “Another parent owns Black Cat Costumes. They’re going to help us out. Life Time Fitness reached out to us and wants to help … the main purpose is to raise money, but it really ties the community together, and it gives the parents, the kids and the teachers a day to have fun together.”

The incentives aren’t just for fundraising. There are also bragging rights involved. All the children who finish the race receive a Bobcat Finisher’s medal and a sticker that reads: “I beat Mr. Catania.”

Each year has seen the effort’s organization go more smoothly, with more sponsors signing on. Attorney Glen Lerner is this year’s latest to join the ranks. His company has formed a team and will participate this year.

Tourists from Boston heard the radio announcements last year and showed up to run the 5K. But one thing is constant: The students are all out to beat Catania.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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