Frozen Feet completes inaugural year

| 29 Feb 2012 | 01:36

NEWTON — On Feb. 23 the final practice of an inaugural running program called Frozen Feet First Graders was held at Swartswood State Park. A race was held to celebrate the children's hard work each Thursday for the past two months that saw a group of enthusiastic first-graders from two different schools bond together through the sport of running. The Bears Youth Running Program has existed as a fall program for many years. This year, when that program ended, parents started asking if there was anything available in the winter. Though the Polar Bears Track and Field program, headed by Fredon resident Bruce Wask, exists, it is only open down to the fourth grade. Stillwater's Laurie Gordon (who also writes for the Township Journal), a volunteer with the fall Bears program, decided to try a new winter program for children in her daughter's grade. With the help of assistant coach Beth Douglas, of Fredon, Frozen Feet First Graders was born, and a group of 15 dedicated children enrolled. "We made the application clear that we would be outside and that if the weather got really bad, the kids could come run in snow suits and boots," Gordon said. "But wow, look at the winter we had! No need for that." Gordon and Douglas were impressed at the work ethic and determination the first graders demonstrated throughout the season. "One of the fabulous things was the bond the children from the Stillwater School and Fredon School formed through Frozen Feet," said Gordon. "It's neat to see at this age as they'll all be in middle and high school together." The final practice included a half mile race and an awards ceremony for the children. Justin Douglas (Fredon School) was the overall champion with Logan Zoppy (Stillwater School) right on his tail for second. Daniel Manser (Stillwater School) came in third. In the girls' competition, Ashley Rose Gordon and Marah Whitby (Stillwater School) worked together for most of the race before Gordon pushed ahead for the win in the last 100 meters. Lily Valeich (Fredon School) placed third for the ladies. Each child received a certificate of completion with special awards given out for determination and enthusiasm. A special award was given to Wyatt Wright (Stillwater School) for his extreme appreciation of the prizes awarded during the season. For the second year, a spring program called Spring Running Bears will start on Thursday, March 23, and run on Thursdays from 4-5 p.m. until June at Swartswood State Park. This program will be open to kids in first through sixth grades. For application or more information, call 973-271-6624 or e-mail