KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — An after-school running program is helping young boys grow into gentlemen.

Let Me Run started teams at West Michigan schools a few years ago. A few weeks ago, Woodland Elementary in Portage added one.

On the surface, it looks like a running club, but it’s much more. Participants say the program helps the boys resolve anger and other issues.

Many people have heard of the Girls on the Run organization. The Let Me Run program is essentially the same thing for boys. The students in Portage meet twice a week to go running.

“I think about it, that it’s great,” said Alex Kha, a 9-year-old at Woodland Elementary.

“I learned how to respect more,” he said of the program. “Like not talking during the person speaking and looking at their eyes.”

Head coach Jennifer Altwies trains the boys to run. At the same time, she’s helping them build self-esteem and gain life skills like creating friendships.

“Everyone is telling boys their whole life that they shouldn’t cry, they shouldn’t express their feelings and things like that, and it’s really detrimental to boys in our culture and you can see the effects it has on boys though out the nation,” the regional director of the program, Mandy Damico, said.

She brought Let Me Run to West Michigan from Charlotte, North Carolina after her son was looking for a running program like Girls on the Run.

In the few short weeks the program has been at Woodland, teachers have noticed positive behavior changes in the classroom and at recess. They say boys are now stopping fights instead of starting them. Even the kids have seen the shift.

“I act more serious and mature,” 11-year-old Sam Engel said.

Let Me Run is currently in about a dozen schools in six West Michigan cities.

“We want to reach as many boys as we can,” Damico said.

If you would like to start a team at your school, you can contact Damico. Her information is posted on the organization’s website.


“Let Me Run” is hosting its first 5K next month in Kalamazoo.