FORT STEWART, Ga. - More than 150 kids gathered on 6th Street early Saturday morning for Fort Stewart's Armed Forces Kids Run. Runners were broken down into three age groups: 5-6 (1/2 mile run), 7-8 (1 mile run) and 9-13 (2 miles). According to run organizer, Dagmar Peguero-Olinger, Child, Youth and School Services coordinator, this was Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield's first year participating in Armed Forces Kids Run.

"We want to promote the importance of exercise, good health and proper weight," Peguero-Olinger said. "We're trying to encourage kids to come outside and participate in physical exercise instead of watching TV and playing games. The key is to have a balance between outdoor and indoor activities."

She said children who grow up learning to love their bodies will have healthier lifestyles, eat more nutritious foods, have more energy and sleep better.

Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Milton, and Garrison Command Sergeant Major James Ervin, along with several parents, participated in the run with their kids. Colonel Milton ran with the 9-13 age group although he said he represented the "over 20" age group. Command Sergeant Major Ervin worked up each group of runners then gave the "On your mark...get ready...GO!" He then blasted a fog horn that sent the kids racing down 6th Street.

In addition to the runs, other games and activities were planned for the runners and non-runners on the grounds outside Jordan Gym. These activities included inflatables, ball bounce, an obstacle course and races. Each runner received a T-shirt for participating in the run.

First Lieutenant Bridget Couchon, a registered dietician at Winn Army Community Hospital, set up a table inside Jordan Gym with displays that showed kids and parents the amount of sugar in some of their favorite drinks and the amount of fat in some of the junk food kids love to eat. She held up three test tubes filled with a white substance and said these three tubes represented the amount of fat found in one deluxe hamburger.

As the runners began returning, parents and siblings cheered and encouraged them to continue running all the way to the finish line. Kaleb Leach, 6, son of Terresa Leach and Pfc. Josh Leach, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, started walking as he approached the finish line but was quickly encouraged to pick up the pace. Wearing his child-size Army PT uniform and ACU hat, he lifted his head and proudly sprinted across the finish line where his mom and friends congratulated him.

Having left after the last and youngest group of runners, Command Sgt. Maj. Ervin continued to encourage runners as he ran with them. Near the end of the run as he approached the finish line, he saw Jasper Lewis, 2, walking ahead of him with her mom, Patryce Lewis, wife of Sgt. Kevin Lewis, 3rd Brigade Support Battalion.

"I caught up with one," he said as he took Jasper by the hand and walked her to the finish line.
Hunter also held an Armed Forces Kids Run, May 15, followed by games at Squires Sports Complex.
According to a pediatrics Web site on, 15 percent of American kids are overweight and another 15 percent are at risk of becoming overweight. Armed Forces Kids Run is an effort on behalf of the military community to encourage kids to increase physical activity, eat healthy and avoid other risk factors for obesity.