Students hit the track for pedestrian safety

Hundreds of Takoma Park families are lacing up their running shoes for pedestrian safety.

Many of those running are still in elementary school, but don't think they can't push themselves for three miles. They've put in some serious training for a serious cause.

Zoe Dawson, the Running Club coach and a Takoma Park mom, said, "It's one of the most important things you can ever teach a child is how to be safe.

The team of parents is making education their mission.

Takoma Park Safe Routes to School Coordinator Lucy Neher explained, "What we like to see is kids who know how to walk to school, how to cross at the crosswalk, how to keep themselves safe in their environment."

The students are getting schooled on street smarts, not just in the classroom, but on the running track.

For the past six weeks, children from five schools have been warming up for the 5th annual "Takoma Park 5K Challenge."

"I just have a need that I just want to do it," said 7-year-old Justus Sawn of Takoma Park.

Sawn is pushing himself 3.1 miles toward the finish line.

Sawn added, "I think when you're running try and keep your eyes open as much as possible."

The schools will get an even cut of the race proceeds, which will be funneled into their "Safe Routes to School" programs.

In years past, they each took home about $4,500

Neher said, "The PTA then uses that money for pedestrian and bike safety education and health and fitness related programming."

"We want them out there, and we want them being healthy and we want them being safe," Dawson added.

The mother of two is also a race day volunteer.

Dawson said, "When we're actually out there with the running club, we're trying to teach the kids okay before you run, you need to stop. You need to look."

And the students are catching on to the simple life-saving lessons.

"Always keep an eye out for pedestrians or kids who are walking to school," Fifth grader Sophie Holt said.

Sawn chimed, "Use crosswalks."

The race kicks off May 5 at 8 a.m. outside the Takoma Park Community Center. You can still register here.