CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - An amazing local program is helping students build confidence and other skills through running.
The Running With The Cats club pairs St. Ignatius High School students with special needs children. They train for a 5K race while building social skills and making friends.
"I got to know them, got to know favorite color, favorite food all that good stuff and just ran, built a relationship, now we're friends," said St. Ignatius junior Connor Barchanowicz. "I think they get a sense of friendship, and I think we all make relationships here."
“It gets my heart going and pumping and I get to explore outdoors when running,” said runner Sage Kopp. “I think special needs kids have to get outside away from TV and run with a running group!”
Later this month, they’ll do the Shanerock run, a fundraiser for children battling pediatric cancer. it was started by the family of Shane Haddad, who was diagnosed with brain and spinal cord cancer in 2010.
“I think the students get way more out of it than they think they’re going to get,” said Julie Ruddy, Running With The Cats co-founder. “They are excited to come every week, the kids are excited to see them, and they build friendships!”
“It really helped me understand this is something important that I’m helping,” said St. Ignatius junior Max Spellacy. “I look forward to just hanging out with Ryan and finding out something new about him every week because he always comes with a different story.”
“It’s kind of fun because you can run with friends and talk to them and you get outside and have a little physical activity,” said 6th grader Reid Autero. “They’re really great friends and I wouldn’t know them otherwise if I didn’t do this program.”