On a brisk Saturday in October during Pacific Homecoming, 179 runners lined up at the starting line of the 11th annual Tiger Dash 5K and Half Mile Cub Run. Among the runners were a number of students from local schools. “This year our office was awarded a community grant through Kaiser Permanente to implement running programs at our afterschool sites,” said Nora Hana, MA Ed, afterschool programs coordinator for San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE). “The culminating event of the running club was to run a 5K. Since we have an ongoing partnership with Pacific’s physical therapy department I reached out to Dr. Todd Davenport to see if we could participate in the Tiger Dash. It was a perfect event for us since the students in our afterschool program were familiar with the physical therapy students at Pacific.” Dr. Davenport commented, “What a fantastic way to kick off the second decade of the Tiger Dash and Cub Run, to continue building bridges between our campus and our community.”
The expanded partnership between the Department of Physical Therapy and SJCOE was based on their collaboration on another project, the Healthy Children program, which is sponsored by the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Community Benefit Fund. The program allows physical therapy students to participate in afterschool programs to teach local students about backpack safety and the importance of a healthy diet.
“I saw many of our afterschool students recognize the Pacific physical therapy students that came to their schools,” Hana said. “Many of the students that participated in the run have never been to a college campus before so this was a very rewarding and unique opportunity for them.” She explains, “It is important for these students because many of them will be the first in their families to consider attending a college. We always want to give our students opportunities to learn from positive role models that are in their communities and to expose them to higher learning opportunities. This expands their horizons and gives them a look at what opportunities are out there for them. Also, having parents bring their children to the campus helps families experience the different possibilities together.”
Doctor of physical therapy (DPT) student Megan Stiller ’17 served as Tiger Dash’s event chief executive officer. She shares that the most memorable part of the event for her personally was the interactions she had with students from the afterschool program. Stiller is passionate about addressing the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, she sees a natural fit between this goal and Tiger Dash. “I feel strongly about outreach and prevention,” Stiller said. “We really try to instill in the kids the things that they can do.”
The Pacific 5K Tiger Dash and Half Mile Cub Run serves as a fundraiser for the DPT Class of 2017. The majority of the funds raised will be used to help students with travel expenses and conference fees associated with attending the national physical therapy conference, American Physical Therapy Association’s annual Combined Sections Meeting (CSM). In addition to networking opportunities, CSM offers physical therapy students and practicing physical therapists access to the latest developments in their dynamic profession. Stiller elaborates, “We can find out the most up-to-date information, learn about current products available, policy changes, new legislation and changes to billing.” Stiller explains that staying up-to-date with changes in the profession allows physical therapists to give their patients the best possible care.
A portion of the funds raised will go toward the Physical Therapy Visionary Endowment, which also supports students traveling to CSM. The purpose of the Physical Therapy Visionary Endowment is to help relieve the pressure of raising funds during the semester, thus allowing the DPT students to focus on their studies. Once the fund reaches $50,000 it will be matched by the Powell Match.
Attending CSM is a key opportunity for professional growth and the process of organizing Tiger Dash is as well. Stiller elaborates, “You use the same skill set you would use in the clinic. Tiger Dash is heavily student initiated, that’s how it first began and it is definitely student run. The whole class gets involved.” The DPT students reached out to community partners to sponsor the event. Major sponsors for the 2016 event were Lodi Physical Therapy, Pine Street Physical Therapy, Golden Bear Physical and Occupational Therapy, Homer’s Barbershop, Team Movement for Life (Central Valley Physical Therapy and Delta Physical Therapy) and Fleet Feet.
“I hope it continues to be a homecoming tradition,” shares Stiller. Echoing her enthusiasm, Hana expressed, “We are looking forward to next year. We are already gearing up for it.”
“Mark your calendars to come join us.” Dr. Davenport said. “The 12th Annual Tiger Dash is scheduled for Saturday, October 7, 2017!”
By Anne Marie H. Bergthold