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Runners hit street for charity with Be Change and Run it Forward

By: Margaret Snider, Telegraph Correspondent
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Jason Harper of El Dorado Hills didn?t know when he began the Be Change program that it would result in himself and seven other ultrarunners undergoing one of their most grueling runs. Be Change fosters educational equality, and has focused on Oak Ridge Elementary School in Oak Park, Sacramento. Harper found that low performance in school can be traced to four key areas; access to health and dental care, emotional wellness, fitness and nutrition, and literacy. When Erika Small, of Granite Bay, volunteered with his program, she was impressed. ?I could see that (Be Change) was working and so I didn?t understand why it was only in one place,? Small said. ?Especially in the current economy, if there?s something that?s working so well, you?ve got to take it national.? As a result, she founded Run It Forward (RIF), a super-marathon that will follow Route 66, from Chicago to Santa Monica, a total of 2,400 miles. The punishing event will keep eight ultrarunners, including Harper and Small, running in relay continuously for 18 days, beginning from Chicago on May 14. The clock will tick until 2 pm on June 1, which is the estimated time of arrival at the Santa Monica pier. The purpose, besides making the Be Change program known, is to acquaint eight schools with the program along the way. ?We picked out schools that logistically were close to Route 66,? Small said. ?Schools which had a high free lunch program, which means economically it was harder for them.? At each of the schools, whose participation has been enlisted in advance, the team will help qualified families sign up for healthcare with the assistance of local Certified Applicant Assistants from each of the states involved. Dentist John Bertsch of El Dorado Hills will perform dental exams and refer any acute needs to a local participating dentist for pro bono work. There will be nutrition and fitness counseling and RIF will invite kids and their families to be part of a 3K walk/jog. Three soccer moms help run the event: Kelly Shaddix of El Dorado Hills is in charge of logistics, and is an ultrarunner herself. Michelle Crews and Jen Hamburg are in charge of the empowerment expo health aspect. ?I?ll be doing some running,? Kelly Shaddix said, ?but mostly pacing, filling in, helping ultrarunners.? She is the wife of rock star Jacoby Shaddix, singer for famous rock group Papa Roach. Jacoby arranged for the tour bus from Pioneer Coaches, at a ?smokin? rate,? that will provide transport for the 8 runners and 9 crew members. It is the same company that provides buses for Papa Roach when they go on tour. Jacoby Shaddix will accompany the group for four or five days after which he will return home to take care of the couple?s sons, who are ten and seven. ?In the business I?m in, there?s just so many people that are just ?what can I get from you, what can I get from you,? to being around people that are just trying to give,? Jacoby Shaddix said. ?I just think that?s just such a great breath of fresh air.? According to Harper, who is community outreach director for Capitol Christian Center in Sacramento, the RIF group represents an eclectic background of belief. ?We have people that are completely agnostic, that feel like there may be a God, but not sure what that God is,? Harper said. ?There is a Buddhist on the bus, and there?s just kind of a ?it is what it is? kind of person on the bus. A person who really doesn?t care about belief on the bus. It?s amazing because you?ve got all these people on the bus that are best of friends, loving life together, and changing the world together, because we?ve laid aside our differences and we?ve embraced our likeness.? Harper said that all the crew members have run marathons before, and know what the runners will be going through. ?We?re going to run from Chicago to Santa Monica, heart, sweat, tears, endurance, passion, whatever it takes to get to the end,? Small said. ?Which is again a great analogy of what needs to happen in our school system. You get some people together and what can?t be done by one can be done together.? Follow the journey at www.runitforward.cc, where, Harper said, graphic designer Eddie Ballisty will be documenting the journey.