Though Villa Park Elementary parent Sarah Jarrell volunteers in many capacities at her children’s school, coaching at the annual Community Foundation of Orange Foundation Games is by far her favorite activity.
“The Foundation Games are so well run, and the camaraderie built across the different grade levels is amazing to see,” says Jarrell of the free annual track and field championship open to all public and private elementary and middle school students in the Orange Unified School District.
“I love being at the games and seeing 5th graders cheering for 1st- and 2nd-grade runners,” says Jarrell. “It’s great to see all of the kids’ hard work pay off. The event also creates a great sense of community.”
Dating back to 2004, the Foundation Games have grown exponentially over the last 13 years, says Susie Cunningham, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Orange (CFO). “We had about 600 kids when we first started. Last year there were 2,000. Our meet is a qualifying one for the Southern California Municipal Athletic Federation (SCMAF). Kids who place in the top four qualify to go on to the regional meet.”
Unlike other similar meets, the Foundation Games are free. “The kids don’t have to pay anything to participate,” says Cunningham. “Everyone gets ribbons and t-shirts, and medals go to the top four in each competition.”
The focus of the community event, which draws a large crowd, isn’t necessarily on winning, but rather on teaching children to be good sports and try something new, says Cunningham. “Children have a chance to try friendly competition and to set and meet personal goals. It’s about character building and instilling confidence, pride and camaraderie amongst the kids.”
CFO President Gary Remland agrees. “The Foundation Games give elementary and middle school students the opportunity to experiment in the track and field arena. We’ve had some great success stories where kids have gone through the program and found a passion for athletics, while other children have benefited from stepping outside of their comfort zones and trying something new.” So successful have the Foundation Games been that the event was recognized with the Award of Excellence from the California Parks and Recreation Services on March 15, 2013.
The Foundation Games dovetail nicely with the purpose of the Community Foundation of Orange, which is to preserve and enhance a sense of community. “The support from the community is incredible,” says Remland. “We rely on 300-400 volunteers, and their assistance is really appreciated.”
The CFO also counts on financial support, including from local business sponsors, to make the Foundation Games a reality. “This is our biggest expense of the year,” says Cunningham. “It’s thanks to donations that we are able to hold the Games.”
The Foundation Games will be held on Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22. The games starting at 5 pm on Friday are open to children born from 2002-2004. The Saturday divisions are for kids born from 2005-2010. Also on Saturday are the police and fire and parent relays. Information: www.communityfoundationoforange.org/foundation-games-2017.html.
Select to view 2015 Foundation Games article.