Thunderbird Bolt: Thoreau Elementary Students Take Wing and Fly


Any adult who has ever been around elementary school-aged children for more than 5 minutes (or who is within spitting distance of their own childhood) can attest to the amazing capacity that kids have for movement – jumping, fidgeting, playing, and chasing each other on the playground.

And anyone who has been involved with public schools in recent years is aware that the need for financial support is great due to declines in funding and increases in student enrollment, as well as increases in demand for student services of all kinds.

So pairing together a 5K race and 1-mile run/walk event to benefit a neighborhood elementary school seemed like a natural fit to Audra Smanski, Kindergarten Teacher at Thoreau Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin.

“My inspiration for the run came from my personal love of running as well as my involvement over the years in a 5k fundraiser for my husband's old elementary,” said Smanksi. And with the help of dedicated volunteers, parents, staff, and students, the dream became a reality on Saturday, May 14, 2011 – the Inaugural Thunderbird Bolt.

Despite overcast skies, sporadic rain, and low temperatures in the upper 40 degrees F, about 100 families or individuals participated in the event. “It is super neat to see so many families out running together, enjoying each other's company as well as participating in a healthy activity- all while helping their neighborhood school,” said Smanski.

In some cases siblings ran together; in others, teachers encouraged students and vice versa. The Thunderbird Bolt served as a neighborhood-wide accompaniment to the longstanding tradition of the Thoreau Fun Run, a school-wide run for students that has been held on a Friday in May for the last 21 years.

The confidence that the students gained from participating was apparent in their enthusiasm, and for the Thunderbird Bolt, the fact that parents and children could join together during the race made for some wonderful memories. “The best part for me was to see families walking and running together!,” said Smanski. “It is super neat to see so many families out together, enjoying each other's company as well as participating in a healthy activity- all while helping their neighborhood school.”

Funds raised from the event will be spent to buy portable playground equipment for each classroom such as balls, jump ropes, and hula hoops. “Our [Thunderbird Bolt] committee really wants to promote a healthy and active lifestyle among our students through movement,” said Smanksi.


And of course, to continue making the Thunderbird Bolt a neighborhood tradition, help will be needed in the future. Smanksi suggests contacting the school to let them know about your interest in volunteering and donating a gift of time on the day of the event. “We really could have utilized many more volunteers on the race route, directing runners/walkers, biking ahead and behind runners/walkers, and keeping time,” she said.

Photos from the 2011 Thunderbird Bolt are available for purchase. All proceeds from the sales will benefit Thoreau Elementary School.

To follow these and other stories, join the Focal Flame Photography Facebook page and follow us on Twitter!