Running for the prize

Local nonprofit wins grant to expand PE program to other schools

Local students may soon have another reason to say PE class is their favorite. Mountain View nonprofit Brute Labs was recently awarded a grant of more than $10,000 to fund the Project RUN! physical education program at local elementary schools.

According to Josh Knox, Brute Labs co-founder and "resident Brute," this is the first grant his company has received. Run by volunteers, Brute Labs aims to start small projects that will have large impacts on communities around the globe. Past projects have included building wells in Ghana to provide clean drinking water, and launching a Web site to help promote an artist from Tanzania.

"We've done a lot of different projects; they've all really come from our own pocket," Knox said. "We all have full-time jobs, and we do the Brute Labs stuff in our spare time."

With the grant, Brute Labs will expand on its Project RUN! program, which provides prizes for kids who reach personal goals in PE class. Knox said they piloted the program at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in East Palo Alto and saw a 232 percent increase in the number of miles run.

"The intention was to supplement already existing programs and make them more engaging for the students so they're interested," he said.

Knox explained that for every mile a student ran over their teacher's requirement, or for every personal record set, students received raffle tokens. The winner of the raffle was awarded an iPod Shuffle.

"They're all very aware of technology," Knox said of the kids. The program provides "a little bit of an incentive, and it really has them pay attention to it."

In the coming weeks, Knox and his team will seek out other local schools to work with, specifically those that serve large populations of low-income students. He hopes to partner with at least one Mountain View school, since many of their recent projects have focused on communities elsewhere.

"We're trying to bring things back into our neighborhood," he said.

On that same theme, Knox said they will be partnering with Red Rock Coffee on Castro Street to promote the program. The two nonprofits worked together on the Ghana well project, with Red Rock asking patrons for donations when they purchased coffee.

"They're definitely going to be part of it," he said. "Right now we're not sure how."

Though still in the initial stages of planning for the program expansion, Brute Labs is required to spend the grant money in the next six months.

The grant is one of several given out by the Boston-based company Sappi Fine Paper for its Sappi Ideas that Matter grant-giving program. The program, which is in its 10th year, has given over $9 million worldwide since its inception.

"It's a grant that is given to designers who are doing innovative things that are socially responsible," said Sappi representative Lauren DiGeronimo. She said the grant proposals are evaluated by a panel of top graphic designers and nonprofit leaders, and awarded for their creativity, feasibility and potential for positive community impact.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Irene Brauer
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Oct 3, 2009 at 4:22 pm

What an incredible story about JOSHUA Knox who can get these kids in school to run much faster than anyone else.I love it!!!
Fantastic, thank you....Irene Brauer

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Posted by Get Real
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 4, 2009 at 12:38 am

I just hope the goal is not once again to lure low-income kids into running in circles around a field for prizes. Kids should be taught tha personal goals and achievement need to start from within, and not continually be incentives based. We don't need another carrot and stick approach as if these kids were circus animals.

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Posted by Dontae
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2009 at 9:12 am

Thanks to those that have read the article thus far and shared their thoughts about RUN! BRUTE LABS is really excited about bringing this initiative to schools throughout the Bay Area, and our goal is to make the program a community-wide effort.

Our vision is one based on achieving long-term gains on the front of health awareness and physical fitness (in the form of running). While RUN! is only slated to last for a finite period of time, the principles shared through the project are intended to encourage students, educators, parents and members of the community at-large to band together in pursuit of healthier lifestyles. As a means to achieving this end, we are devoting significant time upfront to ensure that people realize that RUN! is about far more than a contest; it's about making lasting changes in our community.

As we continue to press forward, we welcome any feedback that you have regarding how we can make RUN! effective. Share your thoughts with us or get involved by emailing:

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