Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Everybody Loves Hershey's

by Nancy Turnage, VRPS Central Office

I haven't met him in person yet, but my role at VRPS, and in particular in composing the weekly E-update and maintaining the website, have connected me with Paul Berryman, VRPS Professional member and Virginia's Hershey's Track and Field State Coordinator.  Every year around this time, we work out the details of updating the Hershey Track and Field page on the VRPS website as well as the VRPS Hershey contact information.  Paul is in the midst of his 10th year of managing the Hershey games for Virginians; in 2004, he was "passed the baton" by Rudolph Freeman approximately three weeks before the state meet due to medical necessity.
Year after year, Paul sees the great benefit of the Hershey program:

The Hershey's Track and Field Games are a competitive event for kids to have fun and experience the benefits of basic exercise skills.  As a volunteer for Virginia Beach's local meet for the first time in 1996, I enjoyed the excitement of watching the kids compete.  I didn't truly see how important a program it was until the first time Ned Cheely, Jr. asked me to help chaperone the Virginia participants to Hershey for the North American Finals.  The experience of seeing the kids meet as total strangers at the airport on Day One, and then witnessing the excitement, camaraderie, competitiveness, and support for each other throughout the even and leaving Hersey as the best of friends on Day Four encouraged me to become more involved with the program.

I had heard mention of the Hershey games from my past, and I've poked around on their website to see a little of its history, but nothing compares to the experience.  Jim Stutts, VRPS Executive Director, spectated at the recent Virginia State Meet on June 21 in Crozet:

It was amazing to see the effort put forth by the young athletes.  In addition it was very good to see the genuine support from the spectators.  Competitive sports are good in so many ways.  It was especially interesting to me because just 30 days ago I attended the Virginia Senior Games Track and Field event.  The passion, effort, support, and enthusiasm was identical to that of the Hershey's youth Track and Field event!  Some things never change.  The ability to compete and support each other and stay active, happy and healthy are awesome qualities.  Thanks to the volunteers for working so hard on both of these events.
Adam Leiderman (Virginia Assistant State Chair from Virginia Beach, left) and Steve Wood (retired from Shenandoah County Parks and Recreation - returned to duty to announce the Virginia State Hershey meet) showcase the Hershey souvenir T-shirt

This year's Hershey games are especially nostalgic, as they mark the end of an almost 40-year tradition. In April, USA Track & Field (USATF) and The Hershey Company announced the launch of a national youth activity initiative as part of a new, seven-year partnership that features “Run Jump Throw”, designed for kids ages 7-12. Hershey’s Track & Field Games will transition to the national Run Jump Throw program in early 2015.

Using the volunteer-based model that made Hershey’s Track & Field Games successful since 1975, Run Jump Throw events will offer a participation-based model for organizers and participants. USATF will supervise the program. Fundamental skills taught as part of the curriculum will include warm-up, proper running technique for sprinting and distance running, jumping and throwing skills. The clinics will be followed by a “practice meet” for kids to apply their skills.

Children participating in Run Jump Throw will be encouraged to continue to pursue the sport, either through parks and recreation programs, school programs or through USATF clubs and associations.


Paul says this about his Hershey days:
As the State Chair, it has been an honor to represent so many talented and respectful children who have kept me feeling young with all their energy.  It will be sad to see the program end after this year, but it leaves me with a feeling of accomplishment in serving the youth throughout the state.

The North American Final Meet is August 2, 2014  -- where else --- in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Virginia is part of the Hershey Southeast Region, also known as Region 8.
Left to right:  Adam Leiderman,, Lauren Mike (longtime volunteer and chaperone for North American Finals in Hershey), Paul Berryman, and Renee Stocks Madison (first-time volunteer from Virginia Beach)

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