BLOOMFIELD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Philadelphia teenagers Alexander Alford, Isaiah Gordon, Amanda Millatt, Isaac Patterson, Alexander Patrick and Jennifer Wright are the group of six Students Run Philly Style athletes being sponsored by the Cigna Foundation to run the Half Marathon race in the Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend Presented by Cigna, January 10-13, 2013 near Orlando, Fla. Students Run Philly Style (SRPS) is a 9 year old non-profit organization which serves Philadelphia students ages 12 to 18 by helping them develop values and accomplish goals through the sport of running.
“What got me interested in SRPS was a video I saw about a boy who lost over 30 pounds running. I used to be obese and had bad asthma. I decided to give SRPS a shot. It changed my life.”
Whether it was trying to combat obesity, overcome bullying or just interest in a free pair of sneakers that brought these kids into the program, once they joined, they all made a commitment to live three values: courage, effort and respect. SRPS pairs each student with an adult mentor, called a running leader, who teaches them about character development, leadership skills and goal-setting through training to become a marathon runner.
In a city with soaring youth violence and over 50 percent of the children being overweight or at high risk of becoming overweight, SRPS provides a safe, active after-school activity led by caring, committed adults. Through a very physically challenging training program, the running leaders are able to teach the students to become strong, long-distance runners and strong, positive young people.
Cigna has an established collaborative relationship with Students Run Philly Style through support from employee volunteers and the Cigna Foundation. The sponsorship of the SRPS athletes to bring these young people to the Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend is part of Cigna's commitment to child wellness as one of the key focus areas of Cigna's newly revised corporate responsibility program, Cigna Connects.
SRPS member Isaiah Gordon explains, “What got me interested in SRPS was a video I saw about a boy who lost over 30 pounds running. I used to be obese and had bad asthma. I decided to give SRPS a shot. It changed my life.” Cigna manager and SRPS running leader, Cedric Edwards, has found the program life changing too. Edwards saw a presentation at work on the program and was so impressed he signed up immediately to serve as a running leader. The only problem was Edwards wasn’t a runner. “I figured none of these kids were runners when they joined either, so I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I’m so glad I made that decision. Being involved with the SRPS kids has been transformational…for me and them. I’ve seen how the simple activity of running—a sport anyone can do anywhere—can make young people stronger physically and emotionally. This program really creates leaders as much as it does marathon runners," says Edwards.
Isaac Patterson, who’s been a member of SRPS for three years, shares, "I joined SRPS just for the free pair of sneakers (a pair of Nike’s that I don’t wear anymore—out of style). But the more I got into the program, the more I realized how good it was to be recognized and to feel accomplished.” Patterson goes on to explain, “I was bullied all my life before 8th grade. I never felt accomplished then. The bullying ended around 8th grade, and I began to gain a lot more confidence after completing running races and going to a few SRPS Leadership Summit camps. I still love the free sneakers. But I also love the positive atmosphere, the races we run and the people we meet. This will be my first time going to Walt Disney World!”
In all, nearly 65,000 runners are expected to compete in various events throughout the weekend. The Disney Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna will again feature Kids’ Races throughout the weekend, including the Mickey Mile, the Half Marathon on Saturday and the Marathon on Sunday in addition to the Family Fun Run 5K. There is also Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge which involves running the half marathon and the full marathon – a total of 39.3 miles. 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend and brings new features, routes and entertainment to the event. The Health and Fitness Expo runs throughout the weekend at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and features the latest in running technology and fashion.
Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI) is a global health service company dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and sense of security. All products and services are provided exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, including Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Life Insurance Company of North America and Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. Such products and services include an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, vision, supplemental benefits, and other related products including group life, accident and disability insurance. Cigna maintains sales capability in 30 countries and jurisdictions, and has approximately 71 million customer relationships throughout the world. To learn more about Cigna®, including links to follow us on Facebook or Twitter, visit www.cigna.com.