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Get Involved: Youth Villages Runners’ Club and 36th Annual YV5K & 10 Miler

When the YV5K & 10 Miler begins Saturday morning, a group of about 70 kids who are served by Youth Villages will take the training and encouragement imparted by their mentors and use it as fuel to reach the finish line.

They are members of the Youth Villages Runners’ Club, a special volunteer initiative that brings together adults who are avid runners, and residents of Youth Villages to train for local races.

Youth Villages is a national organization with two Memphis-area campuses that provide support and mental health treatment for young people struggling with emotional and behavioral problems. Volunteers play an important role at Youth Villages by helping to break up the daily routine of treatment with programming that meets the interests of residents like various arts and crafts, movies, or sports like competitive running.

Photo courtesy of Youth Villages.

For many, running is therapeutic — a time of meditation when the rest of the world slips away and you can focus solely on the task at hand or mentally process through a challenge. There are of course the physical benefits and the added value of goal setting and sense of achievement, things that Paul Ireland, the director of Runners’ Club, says that the leadership of Youth Villages acknowledged and embraced early on.

Runners’ Club was started in 1999 at Youth Villages Dogwood campus.  I was the volunteer coordinator in those days. When I retired, Youth Villages CEO Pat Lawler asked me if I would come to work for Youth Villages part time and expand Runners’ Club to the Bartlett campus. That was nine years ago. We now have over 250 kids that participate in Runners’ Club on our two campuses, four group homes and our girls and boys intensive care facility. – Paul Ireland, Director of Runners’ Club

The group runs at the Dogwood campus on Mondays from 3pm to 5pm, and on Saturdays from 10am to noon. They run at the Bartlett campus on Tuesdays from 3pm to 5:30pm, and on Saturdays from 10am to noon.

Once a month, running volunteers go to a local 5K and take the kids that are doing well at Runners’ Club and in their treatment. Paul says they can always use more volunteers to come out and run with the kids on training runs and at the races. A Runners’ Club website is in the works but in the meantime, anyone who would like to get involved can contact Paul at 901-826-7496 or email him at

Learn more about general Youth Villages volunteer and mentor opportunities on their website.

There’s still time to register for the 36th Annual YV5K & 10 Miler, which will be held Saturday, April 21st. Online registration is closed but you can register in person at the event beginning at 7am. Visit the website for details.

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