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How fitting that Cami Hawkins’ roots are in Tyler, Texas—the “Rose Capital of America.” In her role as chief executive officer for Marathon Kids, she helps kids grow healthy lives through running. The daughter of a physician and a nurse, Hawkins grew up in a home that valued health and wellness. As a young adult, attended the University of Texas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. After graduation, she moved to Boston for a year, then headed back to Texas to attend graduate school in San Antonio for health administration.
Not long after completing her second degree and settling into the capital city for good, Kay Morris founded Marathon Kids. Since 1995, it has grown into a national nonprofit organization that serves hundreds of thousands of kids.
As Marathon Kids evolved, so did Hawkins. She became a health care professional, fitness enthusiast, philanthropist, and mom. When her children joined Marathon Kids, she signed up to become a volunteer. More than a decade later, Hawkins became its CEO.
For the last three years, she and “the most brilliant team of people,” as she describes her dedicated staff, have been moving the organization into the digital age and are engaging with kids and communities on a whole new level.
While Marathon Kids spans across the country, the effect it has on its hometown is particularly meaningful. For more than two decades, the program has been implemented districtwide in Austin. This means that every AISD elementary school student gets to participate in Marathon Kids.
“I believe Marathon Kids has played, and continues to play, an important part in building Austin’swell-known culture for healthy living,” says Hawkins. “We believe, and research has shown, that when kids are introduced to positive physical activities early in life, they become more physically active adults. Not only that, but active kids do better in all aspects of their lives, academically, socially and emotionally.”
Remote Learning Challenges
When the pandemic arrived and ushered in remote learning for local students, Marathon Kids stepped up. The organization opened up its resources to parents and created more programming for kids. Hawkins and her team added new features to their digital platform, Marathon Kids Connect. This enabled parents to access their children’s Marathon Kids accounts and assist or join them in completing their miles and reaching their goals.
Long term, Hawkins hopes that it will be as important that kids move their bodies for 60 heart-pumping minutes every day as it is that they brush their teeth twice a day and get eight hours of sleep per night.
“If we can do that, we will reverse the inactivity crisis we are facing in America and turn the tables on childhood obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” says Hawkins.
In order for the organization to do its important work, it relies on donations and partnerships.
Last fall, the Statesman Capitol 10,000 named Marathon Kids as the beneficiary of its 44th race on April 11, 2021.
“We are celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, and what better way to show the strength of our community than the pairing of Marathon Kids and the Cap10K,” said Hawkins at the time of the 2020 announcement. “We are grateful for this partnership, as it will help us in our mission to reach more kids than ever and make the Marathon Kids program available to all, without cost as a barrier.”
In The Name of Good Health
Since 1978, the Cap10K has been about bringing the Austin community together in the name of good health.
“Austin’s kids are the heart and the future of our city. So, I’m pleased that our race and running community will support Marathon Kids in their mission to get kids active and set them on the path toward a lifetime of good health,” said Jeff Simecek, Cap10K race director.
One dollar from every Cap10K registration goes to Marathon Kids. Additionally, race participants can choose to make an additional donation when registering, which the Statesman will match up to $10,000, at Cap10K.com.
The 44th Cap10K is just a couple months away. It will be spring-time then. Just when the roses start to bloom.