AP NEWS

Tough Elementary students plan annual Race for Awareness

March 21, 2019

Each school campus has its own traditions that make it unique. At Coulson Tough Elementary along Crane Brook Drive in The Woodlands, they’re all about raising awareness.

“After my first year as principal, we wanted to get something started for raising awareness for different things,” Shawn Creswell, the school’s principal, said. “How are we really sharing things with kids, and what do they really need to know that isn’t part of the curriculum?”

The Race for Awareness Walk and 5K Run was then established in 2016. They’ve since raised money for foster care or childhood cancer nonprofits, but this year the campus has selected to fundraise for Inspiration Ranch, an organization in The Woodlands that offers equine-assisted activities and therapies for children and adults with special needs.

After allowing the community to suggest charities, each child in kindergarten through sixth grade at Tough Elementary gets to vote on what they want to raise funds for.

“We knew pets would happen at some point, and it was neat this year that someone suggested animal therapy and what kind of difference animals make in our lives,” Creswell said.

Once a charity has been selected, a team of 27 faculty and staff as well as members of the school’s fifth and sixth grade student council take over the planning for the race day, which is set to begin at 8 a.m. April 13.

To teacher Dawn Caldwell, the best part of this recurring event is seeing her students embrace service in the community.

“Kids have so many different things that they can be involved in, and the fact that they think it’s so wonderful to serve (is my favorite part). I’m so proud of them,” Caldwell said.

The students do seem to understand why the work they’re doing is important. Once they learn all about the selected charity, the student council delegates visit every single classroom at the school to teach their peers about the organization.

“We read them a book about a therapy horse, and all the kids loved it,” Student Michael Garcia said. “It’s fun to go around and teach people why something like this is important.”

Student Gabriella Grieco said she hopes that people walk away from the event knowing that they supported Inspiration Ranch while also having fun.

“It teaches us that it’s not all happy…there’s bad stuff happening, and it’s good to help out. Not only does it help (Inspiration Ranch), it also makes you feel good inside that you can make a difference, too,” Grieco said.

The kids are also responsible to share what the money raised will go toward. This year, the school’s goal is to raise $31,000; that could help the organization buy nutrition for the horses, equipment for the ranch and even purchase a brand new horse named after the school’s mascot: Titan.

MG Tindall, the president and CEO of Inspiration Ranch, said that an added horse would help take 16 to 20 clients off their waiting list—which currently has 51 people in line.

“That’s what keeps us awake at night. It’s hard as a parent to know that there’s something out there that can help your child, but you don’t have access to it,” Tindall said.

Even past the possible donations, though, Tindall said she was so excited to build this connection with the kids.

“I love how (this event) gives kids a heart for our community, that they really take the time to teach these kids about philanthropic, real causes they can get involved in,” Tindall said.

When it comes to race day, Tindall is also bringing two horses on-site to help cheer on the attendees. The campus’ volunteers also have sponsors with booths and mascots, a phtotobooth, a DJ and a hair spray-painting station planned.

And, at the end of each race event, Caldwell said she always finds people wondering what charity the school will raise money for the following year.

“They’re already thinking about the next thing we should fundraise for. I think it’s pretty cool that we do something different every year, and we can already think about how we can do more and make it even better,” Caldwell said.

jane.stueckemann@chron.com