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Early Inspiration: Kids Running For Charity In Pittsburgh

More than 100 kids will be running for charity in the Toyota of Pittsburgh Kids Marathon on Saturday. Photo: Courtesy of Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon

Several children are among the top fundraisers among charity runners tied to this weekend’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.

Adults often underestimate a child’s depth of understanding for the world around them. Eight-year-old John Clay Humphreys demonstrates this on the baseball diamond volunteering for the Miracle League of the South Hills in Pittsburgh. A program that gives children with disabilities the chance to play baseball with the help of a young buddy, John Clay partakes with his 7-year-old brother, James, who has spina bifida. With no feeling from his ankles down, James wears braces on his legs to help him walk.

So when the chance to run the 1.2-mile Toyota of Pittsburgh Kids Marathon presented itself, John Clay figured he had to do it. “He came up with the idea that if James couldn’t run the race, he’d run it for him,” says Maura Rodgers, executive director of the Miracle League of the South Hills. In the process, John Clay joined the Miracle League’s fundraising team and raised over $2,000, topping the organization’s best adult charity runners.

“It’s pretty meaningful to see kids running for kids,” Rodgers says. “They give up their time and allowance because they want to make a difference.”

While charity running has grown exponentially in recent years, there have been few programs that included the youngest runners. The organizers behind the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon hope they can serve as a pilot program for other races. To be sure, at this year’s race there will be about 100 kids running for charity.

Among those runners is also five-year-old Claire Conti, whose charity of choice is the American Rescue League. Since joining the ARL’s team, she has become one of their top fundraisers, bringing in over $2,500.

With two cats and a dog at home from the ARL, it didn’t surprise Claire’s mom that her daughter wanted to raise money to help animals. “This girl is taking the fundraising completely seriously,” Cassie Conti says. “She’s a big thinker and when she gets an idea, she runs with it.”

Even donating her tooth fairy money, she has a grasp for giving beyond her years.

Everyone involved say that not only are the kids contributing to the greater good, they are learning important life lessons through fundraising and running.

“They learn that the training is about something larger,” Rodgers says. “It’s about building a community and making this mile about somebody else.”