(Orange, Texas)

Local News

March 12, 2014

Run It Forward inspires fitness, motivation and education in youth

BEAUMONT — A group of people wanting to educate youth on the benefits of fitness and education ran through the area on Tuesday to spread the news.

The organization known as Run It Forward arrived in Southeast Texas on Tuesday afternoon following the most recent leg of its 1,500 mile journey across the Gulf Coast.

Run It Forward is the brainchild of Erika Small, a former cheerleader with the Oakland Raiders and a ultra-marathon runner. Small was joined on her journey into Southeast Texas on Tuesday by national motivational speaker Jason Harper and rock star Jacoby Shaddix, vocalist for Papa Roach.

“We believe every child deserves a healthy and happy education,” Small said in a telephone interview. “Running is the kind of vehicle we use to show that hard work and exercise can be very beneficial. If you put in hard work and are dedicated, then anything is possible.”

According to its official website, Run It Forward (RIF) educates on fitness, nutrition and the value of health and dental care for America’s children. RIF is where education and endurance collide. As a non-profit organization, Run It Forward stretches the limits of human endurance, tenacity and community outreach on behalf of America’s schools.

The purpose of Run It Forward is to educate America’s under-served youth on the benefits of staying physically and mentally healthy, and the impact it can have on their education. The group is comprised of elite runners and everyday people who are passionate about health and fitness and the well-being of children.

The current participants of Run It Forward are taking part in the “Southern Pursuit 2014” challenge, a two week, 1,500 mile event which began March 2 in Orlando, Fla. and will conclude on March 16 in South Padre Island, Texas near the border of Mexico.

Small said each runner covers approximately 9 to 12 miles each as the group, split into two caravans, covers approximately 100 miles per day.

Shaddix, a Grammy Award nominated vocalist and member of platinum selling band Papa Roach, has faced his own obstacles during his life. However, now, he appears to be a lean, mean running machine and enjoys the challenge each day.

“I got hooked on running a few years ago because of my wife because she was helping out,” Shaddix explained. “Once I got involved, I fell in love with the cause of the organization.”

In 2012, several runners participated in a grueling 2,400 mile journey from Chicago to California following the famed Route 66.

“I was involved with that one, but only with the logistics,” Shaddix added. “I started running by pacing Jason (Harper) and I fell in love. Now I run as much as I can and I came in a full-time runner this time because I wanted to be more involved. It’s cool and it’s really a great way to help a lot of kids at the places we stop.”

Along with being a respected motivational speaker, Harper is an experienced ultra-marathon runner. He was more than willing to join forces with Small when he got the call.

“People couldn’t get their minds around it originally, about us running so many miles,” Harper said. “We have a proven concept that works. It had a deeper impact with the schools than we ever thought.”

Small shared her story of wanting to be a ballet dancer and how she practiced relentlessly and never made the cut for her high school cheerleading squad, yet she went on to become a successful cheerleader with one of the NFL’s  most recognizable franchises, the Oakland Raiders.

Shaddix offered his tale of how he wanted to be famous football player and how he never gave up regardless of how much bigger or faster the other players were. He used that same self-determination when he opted to start a band in high school and eventually become a successful rock ’n roll star.

Harper shared the story of what inspired him as he talked about his son, who wanted to be a runner like his dad. Although his son was not the best or fastest distance runner, he never quit and found friendship through running and helped to make an impact on the lives of others through acts of kindness and motivation.

“Never in a million years did I think I would be running so many miles,” Shaddix added. “But that is the point. Nothing in your imagination becomes reality without hard work.”

Harper, Small and Shaddix had a special message for the young women at Girls Haven as well.

“Keep pushing and work hard,” Harper stated. “Nothing is impossible. If you work hard enough you can change ‘impossible’ to ‘I’m possible.’ You still have to fight for your future, but you can do anything you want to do. We came to Girls Haven because this place resonates with positivity and we believe you can do anything you set your mind to do.”

“Their message was so positive and inspiring,” said Alice Teeler, executive director of Girls Haven in Beaumont. “That is the choice these girls have to make at some point. These girls are so incredible. We just want the best for them and want to see them succeed in life. Having all of these people visit our girls (Tuesday) was very important for us.”

The Run It Forward team leaves behind a self-contained after school program that challenges children to become more involved through a program called Project FIT. A gift is made to each school or organization visited by Run It Forward, in this case $1,000, to help offset any costs involved.

“If what we did here helps even just one of those girls, then we know we’ve done something good,” Shaddix said. “And that’s what it is all about.”

Visit for more information on this organization and its efforts.

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