Running has been a lifelong passion of mine and has shaped the person I am today. My dad started the craze way back when, when he became “hooked” on running. I grew up going to road races to cheer on my father, from local races to marathons. When I was five, we moved to Oak Forest and our house backed up to one of the city’s beautiful bike trails – I don’t think I ever had a chance of not becoming a runner! As I got older and became more involved in basketball, my dad would assign running homework to our team at St. Damian Catholic School. Each day in the summer, I would lace up my LA Gear Regulators – I highly advise NOT running in heavy basketball shoes – and did my homework on the beautiful trails of Oak Forest. Eventually, Dad took me to Running for Kicks in Palos Heights for my first pair of real running shoes!
A few years later, St. Damian held a 5K (predating the Damian Dash and the Smiles for Sarah 5K), winding down the streets in and around the school. I did pretty well, and I will never forget my dad telling me that a friend and fellow St. Damian parishioner said, “Wow, Kelly is a pretty good runner. She should go out for cross country.” And there planted the seed for me to try out for cross country. (Thanks, Mike Dreznes!) I fell even more in love with running in high school, and it was my love of running that led me to my career as a registered dietitian. So when I say running has shaped me life, I truly mean it!
While in college, I started the St. Damian Running Camp (now in its 12th year) with the help of St. Damian physical education teacher Jim Panozzo, and it has become a tradition ever since. I love hearing back from parents who invite me to their children’s cross country meets and thank me for inspiring a love of running in their children.
Fast forward to present day, I am now owner of Devine Nutrition and director of a running program in our area called Run to the Pub. I would not be where I am today, doing what I love, without the start I had as a young child here in Oak Forest.
I hope this encourages you to start your own healthy family tradition by registering for the Damian Dash on Saturday, October 3. You never know: You might be the one to inspire a lifelong love of running in one of your family members! There are plenty of options for all ages and levels. You and the kids can run or walk the 5K, enter the kids’ mile or the Little Lancer Dash. There are plenty of fun activities planned for the kids after the race. Not able to run or walk? Come on out and cheer on our kids as they finish their first 5K, mile race or dash. Nothing beats seeing their smiling faces as they cross the finish line!
The Damian Dash is going GOLD for childhood cancer this year to support a local charity, Julia’s Legacy of Hope, which honors Julia Janes, a young adult from Oak Forest who, sadly, lost her battle with cancer. Every registered runner will help us donate more money toward this fantastic charity started by Julia’s family. I hope to see you on October 3 as we support healthy lifestyles, St. Damian and Julia’s legacy.
By Kelly Devine Rickert, RD
More on Kelly can be found by clicking here.