By Ingrid Howard
Alicia Hunsberger, principal at Vestavia Hills Elementary Cahaba Heights, said she isn’t a runner. But because she loves being a part of the community, she puts that aside during VHECH’s annual fundraising event, the Heights Heroes 5K and Fun Run.
The idea for the fundraiser came together after Hunsberger first became principal at the school two years ago. She wanted Cahaba Heights to have a tradition all its own.
“In Cahaba Heights, we’re kind of a town within a town,” she said. “Cahaba Heights has its own feel and its own community, which we love and we pride ourselves in.”
So Hunsberger and the PTO came up with the idea to start a 5K race and fun run. Although there are other 5K races in Vestavia Hills, there aren’t any specifically in Cahaba Heights.
Not only does the event raise money that goes straight back into the school, but Hunsberger said it also promotes community involvement and awareness about what’s going on at VHECH.
In conjunction with the race last year, staff members around the school took on ‘hero’ personas to promote the VHECH promise, which includes ideals such as being kind to other people, working to be successful and honoring others.
Hunsberger was Captain P, for the first letter in ‘promise,’ and she wore a cape with a P on it.
“So it wasn’t a one-time, one-weekend event; it was really a lot leading up to it,” she said.
Students also watched videos in class that promoted kindness, character, community and fitness.
By race day, Hunsberger said, it was obvious to her that the event would be a success. She said the school raised much more money than she anticipated.
“To notice how many kids were actually there was a huge thing,” she said. “It was just like, oh my goodness! They’re all out here to support, and I know it’s a Saturday, and Octobers are busy, and people have soccer games and everything else under the sun, but they’ve made a commitment to being here.”
The money from the race went into the school PTO’s budget. Teachers were able to submit grant requests, and so much money was raised that every grant request was fulfilled.
“Anything from asking for an iPad cart for all the students to benefit from with technology, to our first-grade teachers have received a new math curriculum that they were utilizing, and within that they needed math manipulatives,” Hunsberger said. “Another group was working on a phonics progression, so they needed reading cards.”
Adding the Big Three
In the race’s second year, Hunsberger said, the school is continuing to promote the VHECH promise and focusing on the school’s “big three:” be safe, be respectful and be your best. The PTO funded a grant to give every VHECH student a T-shirt that says “Heights Hero” on the front and lists the “big three” on the back.
“The 5K is just one piece of the whole thing,” Hunsberger said. “I think it’s an awesome event and an awesome opportunity. Even though I’m not a huge runner, it’s certainly fun for me to get to participate alongside the kiddos. Anything that I can do to be a part of what’s happening in the community is fun for me.”
This year’s event will start with a 5K at 8 a.m. Oct. 20. The Heroes Challenge – a one-mile fun run with an obstacle course – is limited to children 11 and younger and begins at 9:30 a.m. The race starts at 3162 Heights Village.
The event is open to anyone. To sign up, visit runsignup.com and search for Heights Heroes. Registration is $30 for the 5K and $25 for the Heroes Challenge fun run.