Community Building: Dash of Wellness

October 19, 2016

This article first appeared in the October 2016 issue of Athletic Management.

When athletic administrators go above and beyond their designated responsibilities, they have the power to bring together an entire community. That is exactly what Elaine McGrath and John Harding did for South Brunswick, N.J., earlier this year. Combining two core values—wellness and service—they organized an obstacle course fundraiser dubbed the Viking Dash.

“We thought it would be a great way to get people active and involved, and to promote wellness throughout the district,” says Harding, District Supervisor of Health and Physical Education for South Brunswick Schools. “We opened it up to the community, including all the schools and the different age levels of kids.”

The course covered 1.4 miles with nearly 20 different obstacles, all situated on South Brunswick High School’s campus. It was wet and muddy, making for a lot of splashing and spraying as people crawled through tubes, flipped large tires, and climbed a cargo net. The mud pit was the main attraction, measuring 25 feet long, three feet deep and seven feet wide, and filled about halfway with water. There was also a “mini-dash” for kids under 10, set up by an elementary physical education teacher.

Money was raised through a $10 registration fee and donations from local businesses that served as sponsors. More than 300 people went through the course and, in total, over $4,500 was raised, with three non-profits each receiving checks of $1,500.

To design and build the course, Harding and McGrath, South Brunswick High School Athletic Director, relied on 50 school faculty and staff volunteers who put together a collective effort. “Our maintenance guys and grounds crew helped with creating the course—turning the vision into a reality,” says Harding.

While a main goal was to promote wellness, the Viking Dash also served as a spirit booster for the athletic department. Many of the high school’s sports teams wore matching outfits and competed against each other. “But it was really about fun and fitness rather than winning,” says Harding. “In fact, when the event was over, almost all the volunteers went through the course—they wanted to participate, too.”

Harding and McGrath plan to run the Viking Dash again next year with an even more extensive obstacle course. “It was a big success,” Harding says. “We hope to make it an annual event.”

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