NEW TAMPA — Pop music pulsed and cheers rang out as Pride Elementary students made their way to a park next to their school campus on Kinnan Street.
The mood outside the school was electric as the students entered the soggy playground, still wet from rain the day before. They were prepared to make a mad dash for cash on two small, makeshift racetracks.
The celebration marked the launch of Pride’s first ever Boosterthon Fun Run, the culmination of a nine-day program that raises money for local schools while inspiring students to live healthy, character-filled lives.
“It’s been really, really, really fun,” Pride third grader Max Land said.
Max, 8, said he thinks the program has been good for his mind, body and confidence.
The purpose of Boosterthon, an Atlanta-based company, is two-fold, Boosterthon spokesman Brett Trapp said.
The company promotes fitness, leadership and character-building to help students create stronger bonds through teamwork. Students also are encouraged to solicit pledges from relatives and friends for laps they run at the final event.
The nine-day program was implemented this year at more than 1,000 schools throughout the country, including several in Hillsborough County.
Pride’s PTA hoped to raise $30,000 for school projects through the event.
On a sunny, humid morning last week, Pride kindergartners through fifth graders arrived at Pride Park, two grades at a time. They were greeted by parents holding up cell phones and mobile video devices to capture the moment. Nearby, enthusiastic young adults from Boosterthon’s Tampa-based team clapped and jumped up and down.
Local Boosterthon team leader Jason Kauffman’s voice crackled across the field as the spoke into a microphone, rallying students to cheer as time clicked down to start the fun run.
The pep-rally style vibe was reminiscent, on a smaller scale, of the opening of the Olympic Games or the start of a college football game.
Students stormed through a tunnel and onto the race course, one classroom after another.
“You have done an incredible job of raising money for our school,” Principal Cindy Land said, offering support to the student racers. “We are near our goal.
“We are going out with a bang boys and girls. We know you are going to do awesome.”
Shortly afterward the horn sounded and students darted off on a mission to complete 35 laps around the compact area. Several of them slipped and fell on the wet grass, but were helped to their feet by classmates.
“I couldn’t believe how quickly some of them finished,” Pride parent Kerri Ringhof said, laughing. “They thought it was a race.”
Ringhof spearheaded the idea to bring the Boosterthon team to campus. She served as president of the school’s Parent Teacher Association last year and saw the program in action at other area schools.
“Boosterthon has a goal for us of $30,000,” Ringhof said. “We are pretty close, actually.”
But the success of the Pride program won’t be known until Boosterthon mails the school a check after all the pledge dollars are collected.
The theme for this year’s Fun Run was Camp High Five to challenge 700,000 students participating in the program in 22 states to learn about friendship.
The program kicked off at Pride with morning huddle sessions focused on building character. Daily themes addressed the value of not bullying, respecting others, friends sticking together and showing sportsmanship.
It was a lesson third grader Timmy Banjoko, 8, took to heart.
During the fun run, Timmy, whose best friend is Max Land, Principal Cindy Land’s son, said he learned the meaning of true friendship.
“Best friends have to stick together,” Timmy said as he and Max ran side-by-side around the race course.