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Sandy Journal

Park Lane students cheer for each other during fun run, ‘wild’ about assembly

Nov 03, 2022 07:14PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Park Lane Principal Justin Jeffery is “wild” about animals—well, except for snakes.

“I could feel him tighten up around me,” Jeffery said about a boa constrictor that was placed around his neck in front of the student body. “I was more nervous about this than jumping out of a plane.”

Both were incentives for students to participate in the school’s PTA one-mile fun run fundraiser that funds activities such as Red Ribbon Week, field trips, accelerated reading, field day, Junior Achievement, Reflections, STEM and art nights and others. Last year, he skydived in tandem with Skydive Utah when students reached their goal.

This year, with students surpassing the $12,000 goal by $5,000, he upheld his promise to kiss a crocodile and hold the 10-foot-long snake.

“I lived in Texas so I’m used to crocodiles, but I didn’t think I would be kissing him on the face,” said the principal who closed his eyes when he smooched the reptile. “I was happiest when I couldn’t see his face.”

Even with the “Wild for Learning” theme, Jeffery said there’s more to the Sept. 16 fun run than just the incentives that brought in the Scales and Tails assembly and a visit from Jack the Goat from Sandy Animal Services.

“We're running the neighborhood and every kid gets to participate in a super cute Park Lane Panthers shirt, but it brings together and involves our community,” he said. “Jordan’s cross country team comes and they do warm-ups and stretches with the kids and they and some football team members run alongside them, then we have a lot of parents who come run or help, we have neighbors come out and cheer them on and the police department is here on motorcycles ensuring everyone finishes.”

He said it’s a positive, inclusive activity for everyone.

“The fun run brings together our students. Everyone participates, whether they’re running, walking or in a wheelchair; they clap and cheer for each other,” he said.

Fourth-grader Lucas Mjrck, who has cerebral palsy, said the best parts were “running with my two best Beetdigger football friends” who came to assist him in the fun run so he could “go farther than last year; next year, I’m going to beat what I did this year.”

His teacher, Gioconda Velez, said it was exciting for her students to see their families and neighbors hold signs, encouraging them.

“They were so happy and excited to run,” she said. “Lucas even made a trailer for the fundraiser telling his family and friends about the run. It’s more than a fun run and Otter Pops and music afterward to these students; it brings us together as a school and community.”

Third-grader Elsa Dent made a goal to use her walker instead of her wheelchair during the fun run.

“I was excited to do this with my classmates,” she said. “It would have been bumpy in my chair. I had CP camp (physical therapy for cerebral palsy) after my surgery on my legs and fixing my flat feet, so now I’m able to do this. I wanted to do this.”

Although her course was shorter than most of the students, Elsa, who is a dancer, was joined by her younger brother walking to the finish to the cheers and clapping of family, friends, classmates and neighbors.

“The police stopped the traffic and were even cheering for me,” she said. “I love the fun run; I feel like a champion.”