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How RunningBrooke Works

By Kris Gilbertson

(This continues the conversation with marathon athlete Brooke Curran about how her RunningBrooke foundation raises funds to improve the lives of Alexandria kids.)

How does running a marathon translate into raising money?

It’s not a dollar per mile or any of that. It’s really the ongoing commitment and attention on Alexandria’s kids with my running. The fundraising is more around businesses, folks that are committed to Alexandria, and who want to be aligned with our organization.  

Once a pack a day smoker, Brooke has helped over 5,000 Alexandria kids with her marathon running. (Courtesy photo.)
Once a pack a day smoker, Brooke has helped over 5,000 Alexandria kids with her marathon running. (Courtesy photo.)

Where has the million dollars come from?

Businesses, local, regional, and international. It’s been runners, running the Marine Corps, let’s say, since that’s coming up. We have 100 runners who run with us and fund-raise [runners with sponsors give the money to the foundation].

We have folks who looked for a way to give back. This makes sense to them. Or sometimes we’re fundraising for a specific project, say Spring to Action, when we raised $100,000 in 24 hours to build a playground (Taney Avenue). We fund-raised for it in April and it just opened in September. [See September ZEBRA.]

It’s also through strategic partnerships—working directly with the City of Alexandria, working with Rebuilding Together Alexandria, working with law firms that want to have corporate volunteer days and want to give funds towards the project.

Your website says RunningBrooke works to instill physical activity within existing programs and communities. How do you do that?

We hold summits where we bring in outside speakers who are thought leaders around Active Bodies, Active Minds, about how kids that are moving are better learners in the classroom.

Who comes to the summits?

Dr. Alvin Crawley (Superintendent of Alexandria Public Schools), ACPS administrators, teachers, PE teachers have attended. RunningBrooke is its own nonprofit, but we’ve partnered with 30 other Alexandria nonprofits through a grant process where folks come to us with their ideas about how to get their kids moving within their program.

The Hume Springs neighborhood playground was completed in October 2015. Volunteers and neighbors gathered to celebrate. (Courtesy of RunningBrooke)
The Hume Springs neighborhood playground was completed in October 2015. Volunteers and neighbors gathered to celebrate. (Courtesy of RunningBrooke)

Do you give money to upgrade schools  or to influence curriculum?

We will give grants to upgrade outdoor facilities. We’ve resurfaced blacktops, and we’ve given monies to purchase fun equipment. John Adams Elementary is a great example of that. Our goal is to get every kid moving in the city of Alexandria and one of the best ways we can do it is by partnering with ACPS. It is not hard, it does not take a lot of money, and it does not take a lot of time or expertise.

Have you ever gone before the school board to sell your program or your ideas?

Those are definitely next steps. The school board and the PTAs are aware of what we’re doing. I’ve met with both groups. This is one of those things where conversations have to happen. We have to see how this fits with the curriculum that ACPS wants to do. It’s a long-term partnership and we are probably at Chapter 2.

There can be resistance to outsiders coming in and wanting to change the curriculum.

That’s exactly what we don’t want to do! We view this as a long-term partnership that might take years to fully bloom. Our goal is to work closely with anyone interested in this, the nonprofits or the schools. We know the interest is there.

RunningBrooke was founded seven years ago, at the start of the Obama Administration. Is there any connection with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative?

There is not! And I want there to be! She’s my idol. I would love for there to be some connection. It’s one of those things like, how do we make that happen?

Who sponsors RunningBrooke?.

The LizLuke team is Elizabeth Lucchesi with Long and Foster. She inspires people to give money, as do our other sponsors, everybody on our sponsor page. We have folks who’ve been with us from the very beginning, like McLaughlin Ryder Investments, and Dr. Kim Kitchen of Old Town Smiles. They are terrific.

Our Board is about 14 people, mainly Alexandrians, folks that care passionately, like I do, to see Alexandria be the best that it can be through helping its kids.

Unexpected Benefits

Your press release says you have made “incredible strides” on behalf of under-served youth. What strides?

I think of the playgrounds built in what are called playground deserts, two to date, and renovations of some others, like John Adams. It’s the grants, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars of grants, that we’ve given to those programs. It’s giving kids the opportunity to be kids again.

A side thing that I didn’t really know about was the bridging and rebuilding of neighborhoods around the park. Last year, when we did Hume Springs on Dale Avenue, some neighbors had lived there for 20, 30, 40 years and some were new to the neighborhood.

That playground was derelict; it had a 10-foot high chain link fence surrounding it. It wasn’t attractive, and because neighbors wouldn’t go out there, it was used for things that shouldn’t happen in a playground.

We asked the neighborhood before we poured a lot of money into it, what do you want in your playground? Some older neighbors said they wanted a space to exercise. What I mean by older is anybody over 20. They said, we want to be able to sit and read, we want to be able to bring our dinners and lunches. They also said, we want a fitness station, so we included an adult fitness station.

Are you familiar with Parkour? It uses outdoor stuff that’s already there: a bench, a tree log, whatever. Your exercise routine is jumping over it, jumping through it, or going around it. They have Senior Parkour at the Hume Springs Park. Once a week a group of, I guess, 5 or 10 folks uses the playground for their Parkour class.

So neighbors know neighbors now, neighbors are coming out. After the last snowfall, I got an email from one of the neighbors who said, ‘You know, we all came out with our shovels and dug the playground out because now that’s the central focus of our neighborhood.’ I think that’s terrific. A playground shouldn’t be just for little kids. We all should be out there playing.

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RunningBrooke – Move. Learn. Become.

To learn about RunningBrooke’s achievements on behalf of Alexandria’s disadvantaged children, to follow Brooke’s marathon victories, or to donate/volunteer, go to 107 S. West Street, #545, Alexandria, VA 22314

107 S. West Street, #545, Alexandria, VA 22314

844.M2L.KIDS (844.625.5437)

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