Evan Krieg, 8, participated in Kids of STEEL (KOS) for the first time when he was in kindergarten, three years ago.

“My gym teacher emailed my parents [about the program],” says Evan who is a student in the Deer Lakes school district and plays hockey and soccer. Kids of STEEL has made him a faster player, one reason he likes the program a lot and continues today. “We get to keep moving,” he says. “We get to exercise, and we get to keep our hearts strong.”

Kids of STEEL (KOS) is a free, award-winning, youth physical activity and nutrition program created and managed by P3R, organizers of the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. Designed to instill lifelong, healthy habits in children, KOS was just awarded $10,000 as the 2015 Youth Program of the Year by Running USA.

“Few programs can match the success of bringing kids into running than P3R’s Kids of STEEL program,” says Running USA CEO Rich Harshbarger. “The future of our sport comes from youth programs that get younger generations moving.”

“We are honored to be recognized as Youth Program of the Year by our industry peers,” says Michele Nichols, P3R’s Youth Program Manager. “Our team is passionate about working with the youth in our area.”

Kids of STEEL
Image courtesy of P3R.

The Kids of STEEL program started in 2011 in 15 schools to promote lifelong healthy habits in people of all ages. “There is evidence-based research that these running-based programs positively benefit school children physically, emotionally, and academically,” says Nichols. Since its start, Kids of STEEL has grown to 145 sites with more than 16,000 children participating.

“Kids of STEEL reaches children of all demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds. We have sites in urban, rural, and suburban settings,” notes Nichols.

KOS participants choose from three training plans: Toddler Trot, Kids Marathon, and 5K, each with a series of physical activities and nutritional challenges and goals.

“Our goal is to instill lifelong, healthy habits in all children and their families,” says Nichols. “We believe Kids of STEEL is a fun and easy way to learn about physical activity and nutrition.”

Evan would agree. “Last year we got to do smoothies!” he says.

Evan’s mom Kelly, who is an avid runner and has participated in Pittsburgh’s marathon, is a fan of Kids of STEEL as well. “It’s fantastic,” she says. “I like that running is encouraged for more than just adults” through the school program.

Nichols says the $10,000 in grant money will help Kids of STEEL expand even further. In 2014, P3R created Project R.U.N. (Reaching Underserved Neighborhoods).

“Some places need more support to make Kids of STEEL a reality in their neighborhood,” Nichols explains. “The number of community organizations requesting to be included in Project R.U.N. exceeds the number we can work with in a given year. This grant from Running USA will allow us to extend the reach of the program and serve more youth in Pittsburgh.”

Dawn Patton is a professional writer in Pittsburgh who blogs at redpenmamapgh.com. Married to Dan, and mother to Gabriel, Flora, Kate, and Michael, Dawn has a little bit to say about everything. Just ask her. She's also proud to have been in the inaugural Pittsburgh Listen to Your Mother show in 2015.