SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 30 As the thermometercrept above the 100 degree mark, so did the expectation of a strong finish forJason Harper's 100-mile-run for the children of inner-city Sacramento'sroughest neighborhood. The Extra Mile Run was created by Harper to raiseawareness and support for the uninsured children of Oak Ridge ElementarySchool.
Harper, 36, crossed the finish line on the playground of Oak Ridge at29:35. Slightly dehydrated and exhausted, Harper's motivation never waned,though his body did.
"It was a long night and I am glad I am finished with the heat," Harperstated with ice packs being layered on his neck. "At the sixty mile mark, Iwas very nauseous and couldn't hold much down."
Despite the difficulties with the 103 degree heat, Harper continued torun.
"If we were really going to bring change, great awareness was going tohave to happen. Finishing in the heat brought a lot more attention to therun," Harper stated.
For the last four years, Harper through Equal Start, has raised more than$100,000 in goods and service to help Oak Ridge Elementary thrive in theirinner-city location. Despite the efforts of Equal Start, test scores remainednearly unchanged. Harper asked Principal Steve Lewis what he thought thereason was for little academic increase. Without hesitation, Lewis said, "Achild's health and wellness." Harper strategized and then asked, "How canstate-mandated test scores go up when sickness and access to basic health careescapes them?"
Harper discovered more than 1,000,000 children in California did not havehealth care and yet 70% of them qualified for it. The disconnect for medicalcoverage was at the enrollment process. "We found great friends at Cover theKids. They mentored us to understand how to best get families aware of theavailable medical services."
Cover the Kids is a non-profit organization that assists families with theenrollment process to Medi-Cal, Healthy Kids, and Healthy Families. Theseorganizations handle the medical needs of California's under-privilegedchildren.
Brett Rodarte, a long-term broker of health insurance coverage and avolunteer at Oak Ridge, explained the health care dilemma. Many familieswithout basic health care use the emergency rooms, that can't deny care, astheir only option. The cost for the simplest of procedures can cost thousands.Those costs raise health care premiums and cost tax payers.
"The Extra Mile Run, as illogical it was, the approach he took was verypractical. His vision is proactive, instead of reactive," said Rodarte.
With nearly 800 people crammed on the playground to see the finish, mediaand camera crews scurried to get in position. The staff, faculty, and studentsbuzzed with anticipated hope of a strong finish. In the distance, Harper, hisrunning buddies, Rick Cole and Principal Steve Lewis, appeared. Led by anobviously pained Harper, the trio galloped towards the finish in the secondday of triple digit heat. In the final steps Cole raised Harper's arm tosignify victory. Harper crossed and the friends, children, parents, andteachers of Oak Ridge screamed encouragement.
On this day, everyone at Oak Ridge Elementary knew they were significant.The value of going The Extra Mile was more than a cliche. For Jason Harper, Itwas the 100th mile that ended his greatest run and began the children'sgreatest hope, health care.
For more information, please call 916-284-4431 or visithttp://www.extramilerun.com.
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SOURCE Equal Start