Fun Run raises $10,000 for Options Program

First slide

Bright and early on a chilly Saturday morning last month, hundreds came out to raise thousands of dollars to support the Options Program at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries.

The 1.6-mile JP Fun Run (previously the JP5K) celebrates students with special needs, and raises awareness and support for the program that has been described as the heartbeat of the school.

“To see so many students, families and friends come out in support of our awesome Options students is really inspiring,” said Options teacher Connie Spadafore. “It speaks to the core values of our school: faith, respect for life and community.”

Under the direction of veteran race director and JP alumni dad Selden Fritschner, participants, donors and sponsors together raised more than $10,000 at the Fun Run. Funds support classroom supplies and the curriculum specific to the learning needs of Options students.

"My favorite part of the Fun Run was being the Hot Pink Team Captain," said senior Options student Natalie Beck. "The best part of the Fun Run was running around the whole track and winning a medal,” said senior Options student Ned Corzine.

Mentors played a special role in the Fun Run by helping their friends in Options lead teams. A mentor is a John Paul the Great student earning the college preparatory diploma who takes time from their schedule to work with an Options student. Mentors often talk about how meaningful the experience is for them, saying they receive far more than they give.

"I love working with the Options students as a mentor. Because of this experience, I think I know that after high school I want to be a special education teacher,” said sophomore Ella Rose Friedman.

At the end of the course, while chilly racers warmed themselves with hot chocolate and pancakes, awards were presented in numerous categories, including the top three times for male and female runners, as well as the oldest and youngest to finish the race. During this year’s ceremony, two organizations that have played a prominent role in supporting Options were recognized for their contributions.

KOVAR, represented at the Fun Run by Chuck Curran, is a charity of the Knights of Columbus in Virginia that serves people with intellectual disabilities. Last summer, they awarded a $20,000 grant for the purchase of classroom equipment, including the latest microscopes.

Similarly, John Reidt accepted a certificate of appreciation on behalf of Porto Charites, an Arlington-based organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with special intellectual needs. They donated more than $12,000 last year to the  Options Program to aid in curriculum development.

In addition to representing Porto Charities, Reidt is the father of alum Sean Reidt, the first student admitted to the Options Program when the school opened in 2008 and a graduate of the first class in 2011. With Sean by his side, Reidt expressed his gratitude for the impact the school had on his son’s life. Upon graduation, Sean went on to successfully study with the George Mason Life program.

As John Paul the Great celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, the Options Program is recognized among their most meaningful achievements.

“We are more of who we are because of the beautiful souls in the Options Program,” said Dominican Sister of Nashville Mary Veronica Keller, principal. “The opportunity to learn from each other about things that matter most in life — how to be a good friend, have child-like faith and love unconditionally — are gifts we all experience thanks to the presence of the Options Program.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017