Jake Franklin
AC Brown, Jake Franklin and John Asher formed a running club to help grade-schoolers physically and emotionally.

It all started with passing a homeless shelter on a run with a buddy. Jake Franklin and John Asher wanted to make a way to help children exit the cycle of homelessness. They brainstormed on long runs, talked it over and then put it into action.

They were training for a marathon when they ran past the shelter that inspired them to start the nonprofit organization, Running Forward. The two of them joined with a friend, AC Brown, and began putting their ideas together in late 2008. By the end of 2009 the three co-founders were working with kids and training them for their first 5k race that they ran together earlier this year.

Running Forward helps young boys ages 10-12 who don't have the financial or emotional means to see the positive repercussions running can have.

"Running has a lot of positive aspects for the human body not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally as well," said Brown.

They started approaching principals at different elementary schools. The principals then talked with the teachers to find the students who would enjoy, flourish in and qualify for the program.

Running Forward meets every Friday morning in the gym of two different grade schools. Participants discuss nutritional ideas from Asher, the group's personal nutritionist. Then they stretch and get ready to run. The kids start at about half a mile, gradually working up to a mile, a mile and half, two miles. … They work until they can run a 5K race.

"The more comfortable you run, the easier it is to take it to the next level," said Brown. "So it is important that the kids have good running shoes." And that's where Wasatch Running Co. comes into play. It donates 100 percent of the shoes needed for Running Forward. Other sponsors include Healthier Choice and Success Magazine.

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The Friday morning meetings also focus on good leadership qualities. The group discusses dreams and ambitions of the students, then talks about how the kids can accomplish these dreams. Guest speakers ranging from business owners to lawyers also attend the meetings to talk with the kids about working hard, impacting the world in a positive way and what good leadership qualities are.

To keep the kids enjoying the program, they work at getting to know the students as individuals. They all work together, run together, sweat together and share personal achievements with each other.

"Instead of having a sleepy-eyed and sluggish morning, it gets the kids ready to go and finish the week out strong," said Brown.

Interested parents or schools can contact Running Forward by leaving their contact information at runningforward.ut@gmail.com.

e-mail: kcox@desnews.com