BARTLESVILLE - Several afternoons a week, dozens of teens and adults gather in Bartlesville. The teens are preparing to run their first half marathon.
The adults are mentoring them to their goal. It is part of a program originally designed to help juvenile offenders. But, now “Run the Streets” is Making a Difference in the lives of so many others.
Each run begins with a good, long stretch and encouragement from District Judge Curtis DeLapp.
Five years ago, juvenile probation officer, Bob Williams, asked the judge if they could offer some young offenders an alternative to the traditional corrections system.
“If they finish all the training and complete the half marathon, the court waives any costs that they have, releases them from probation, and if they have any community service or things like that, the court also waives those things," Williams said.
Williams got the idea for “Run the Streets” after reading an article about a similar program in California.
The Bartlesville program started with 18 juvenile offenders. Now it is open to any teen who wants to learn to run a marathon.
Emilee Shoff joined for fun. She’s put in weeks of hard training to prepare to run her first half marathon.
“It’s so helpful to all the people... whether you just want to lose weight or you’re in trouble,” Shoff said.
Private donations cover the cost of outfitting each participant with proper running gear, whether they are juvenile offenders or not.
“We provide this program at no cost to the kids or their parents,” Williams said.
He said that is what makes it possible for teens who cannot afford to take part in other organized sports to have an opportunity to learn how to run. In addition, the program is making a difference by saving taxpayers thousands of dollars when a juvenile offender chooses to run instead of enter a group home for young offenders.
“Traditionally, a kid that goes through a group home program, that costs the taxpayer about $25,000 to send that kid through that program,” Williams said.
“Run the Streets” costs the state nothing.
Juvenile offenders that have been through the “Run the Streets” program have a lower rate of re-offending, according to Williams. He says over the past five years only about 10 percent of “Run the Streets” participants have re-offended, while the rate for group homes is more than twice as high.