Paloma Elementary School’s Running Club shines with two star helpers

Paloma Elementary School teacher Tim Saffell started the school’s Running Club this year, and in only months, two students have caught his attention.

Running Club takes place Mondays and Wednesdays before school, 8:15 a.m. to 8:40 a.m., and the members run laps around the track to fill up their cards and reach 10 miles. Upon completion of 10 miles, the students receive a certificate, and after 25 miles, the students receive a shirt.

“It has grown into something very positive in the school,” Saffell said.

He met with fourth and fifth-grade students who were interested in helping the runners once or twice a week. According to Saffell, close to 25 students signed up initially, but over the course of the summer, that number began to dwindle until it was only two: fourth-grade student Erik Vogt and Ben Ames.

“Erik is in a motorized wheelchair. He obviously cannot run, but he really wanted to be a part of the Running Club,” Saffell said.

Erik was diagnosed in March 2016 for a bone deterioration disease, Perthes disease, that affects 1 in 12,000 people, according to Karen Vogt. In August 2016, he had a surgery that cut a tendon to allow him to abduct his left hip. He wore braces 12-24 hours a day. Currently, he is in stage 3 or re-ossification, which may last one to three years. For recovery, Erik undergoes physical therapy and aquatic activities to help his bones heal properly, to increase his range of motion in his hip and to prevent deterioration of his muscles. The Vogt family hopes Erik can regain full walking activity in 6 to 12 months, and Erik looks forward to playing flag football again.

Saffell recognized Erik’s dedication early on and noticed on several occasions how the student would arrive before him.

“Erik is one of two helpers left that come on a consistent basis. He is always the first one there, and he stays until the end, making sure that his job is complete,” Saffell said, “He never complains when the weather is hot, and he makes sure he is dressed appropriately when it is 37 degrees.”

Saffell commented that Erik learned most of his duties just by watching.

As for Ben Ames, he is also committed to helping the Running Club alongside his best friend Erik.

Erik and Ben’s role is to organize the cards, to set up the tables and cones, to mark the laps when students come around and to take down the tables. Saffell opens the gate 8:10 a.m., but he sometimes is beat to the gate by early arrivers and Erik who is already passing out cards to the runners.

Saffell said the most rewarding part of supervising Running Club is “watching them take the responsibility of the whole thing, I simply could not do this without their assistance.”

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