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Lakewood Ranch students put best foot forward

Willis Elementary hosts its annual Walkathon fundraising event.

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  • | 11:35 p.m. September 28, 2018
  • East County
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It was only a day before the annual Robert E. Willis Elementary Walk-A-Thon that fifth-grader Rackel Urresta slammed her foot in a car door, breaking it.

But on Sept. 28, as the walkathon began, Urresta was out there with the rest of the participants.

“I did 10 laps,” said a smiling Urresta, who was pushed around in a wheelchair by Student Support Specialist Susie Johnson. “I didn’t want to miss walking with my friends.”

It was just one example of how students view an event that  raises money for various school programs and brings the school’s students, families, teachers and administrators together.

Liz Johnson and her daughter, fourth-grader Abby Johnson, were among the participants.

“We appreciate this fundraiser because all of the money goes right back into our school,” Liz Johnson said. “It’s something Abby looks forward to doing because she loves running.”

Tami Silver came to the walkathon to watch her fourth-grader, Jack Silver, do the laps. Tami said Jack was vying for the top prize, which went to the student who covered the most laps. That student would be a physical education teacher for the day.

“He just loves P.E.,” Tami said of Jack.

Willis Principal Bill Stenger rewards his students every year for their fundraising efforts by stranding himself for a day on a boat floating in the lake adjacent to the school.

Shannon McCoy said her son, fifth-grader Tyler McCoy, loved talking about Stenger’s adventure on the lake last year.

“He’s really looking forward to seeing that (again),” she said. “I think when kids grow up in Florida they know not to go in lakes because of alligators, and it’s funny to them to see their principal out there (albeit on a boat). The little kids laugh and the older kids get to throw water balloons (at Stenger). And it’s for a great cause.”

Besides participating in the walkathon, students sold Otis Spunkmeyer cookies to raise money, which goes toward equipment and projects not funded by the district.

Some parents love having a reason to spend time with their children during a school day.

Penny Kennedy was back for another walkathon with her fifth-grade daughter, Kendra Gough.

“We always have a good time,” Kennedy said.


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