Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
The Counseling Center, in Portsmouth, is hosting its Natural High 5k walk and run this weekend to raise money for its summer outreach program. This year the program — which ended in August — served more than 250 children, taking them on field trips to skate parks, swimming pools, and to a water park in Columbus. Clarence Parker, of the The Counseling Center, said these programs would not be possible without community support and fundraisers such as this weekend’s 5K.
“The summer outreach club program has been going on for about 24 years. We provide nine-weeks of summer fun and programming for kids, ages 5-12. This past summer we had an average of 94 kids a day who showed up and participated. We had over 250 kids registered,” Parker said. “We rent the 14th Street Community Center and that provides us an indoor facility and gymnasium where we can have activities in bad weather. Typically we’re outside over in Bannon Park and different sites around the community.”
The kids also participate in community service projects each year, such as their community garden.
“We collaborated with The Ohio State University Extension Office and the Scioto County Conservation Office in order to do that garden. They actually folded in the 4-H club who came up and put a fence around the garden. The kids really loved that. They enjoyed that. That was our major community project for the summer. We did do a canned food drive, and kids went around and collected up the cans from the community and that went to a local food pantry,” Parker said.
He said the programs teach the children the importance of giving back to their community.
“Sometimes, if we’re not careful, we get a negative picture of our community, and we’re challenging our kids to understand that as they grow and as they mature, what our community becomes is going to be largely dependent on what they’re investing and what they’re giving back. We’re trying to give them something to be proud of in our community,” Parker said.
The group had taken field trips to Skatelan in Wheelersburg, the Portsmouth Public Library, the Southern Ohio Museum in Portsmouth, and went this year to a water park in Columbus. All of activities are free for kids to participate, and program relies heavily on community support and fundraisers to keep them running.
“When we first started this program 24 years ago, we had a grant from the Ohio Department of Drug and Alcohol Addiction Services. Of course, over the years that has dwindled down now to just peanuts.” Parker said. “Our summer program will average anywhere from $20,000 to $25,000 a year. in order to put on a summer program for nine-weeks, five days a week. The overwhelming majority of money for that has to come from the fundraising that we’re doing.”
The Counseling Center hosts two major fundraisers for their summer outreach program each year: A Celebrity Chef dinner in the spring, and their Natural High 5k fundraiser in the fall. This year’s fifth annual 5k is Saturday.
Cassie Glock, community relations and marketing specialist for The Counseling Center, said the run starts with special spaghetti dinner tonight at All Saints Church for participants to pick-up their T-shirts, goodie bags, and get ready for the next day’s walk. The public is also invited to the dinner, and tickets cost $6 each for spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, dessert and drink.
The race follows on Saturday with registration beginning at 8 a.m. at the Holiday Inn, on Second Street. The race will begin at 9 a.m. on Front Street and is divided into 13 divisions for each gender. Divisions for the Natural High 5K Run/Walk include: ages 10 and under, 11-14, 25-29, 40-44, 55-59, 15-19, 30-34, 45-49, 60-64, 20-24, 35-39, 50-54, and 65-plus.
“In addition to the kids in our summer program, that’s kind of where the Natural High thing came in. Of course you want to promote physical fitness and health, but it shows people that there are alternative ways of getting a high without turning to drugs, alcohol, crime. It’s just a healthy way to get a high,” Glock said.
According to Glock, all race participants will return to the Holiday Inn after the race. Refreshments and fruit will be provided and the awards ceremony will take place. Top male and female runners will be awarded a trophy and a race bag filled with top of the line running gear. Award medals for the 5K run will be given for First, Second and Third Place for each division.
For more information regarding the Natural High 5K Run/Walk, contact Community Relations at 740-354-3829 ext 234 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or email@example.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.