Hollifield Station Elementary School

Kellie Kennedy, left, and her daughter Ava, a first grader, run in the Boosterthon Fun Run at Hollifield Station Elementary School. The event is the PTA fall fundraiser, which raised $16,000. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun / October 2, 2013)

By the dozens, Hollifield Station Elementary students darted along a pair of 1/16th-mile ovals on the school's lower field, high-fiving teachers with each completed lap.

Along the periphery stood parents and members of the school's PTA, all agreeing that this activity sure beat another gift-wrap sale or pizza party.

Hollifield Station is the first in Howard County to employ a fundraising program called Boosterthon Fun Run, a fundraising tool for school-age children designed to "speed up" traditional walk-a-thons and add elements of character and leadership building.

Hollifield Station PTA President Cherrie Webb said the school wanted an alternative to traditional fundraising efforts, and also something that aligned with county and school efforts to encourage healthy living.

Webb said the fun run, held Wednesday, will be followed by an annual Hollifield Station event, the Little Toot Run, this Thursday that also encourages movement through exercise.

The fun run was an extension of other exercise-related activities, Webb said, and culminated eight days geared toward a curriculum that encourages nurturing friendships.

Over those days, students huddled in teams for exercise stints, then took part in character-building lessons centered on such themes as respecting others, showing sportsmanship and sticking together.

"It teaches them that if they all work together they can accomplish a goal," said Hollifield Station PTA Vice President Kellie Mason. "Each day they had a different lesson and they realize that hard work can be fun."

Justin Loureiro, a team leader for the Washington-area Boosterthon Fun Run, said the Atlanta-based company launched in 2001 when founder Chris Carneal sought to develop an alternative to traditional fundraising after fielding requests from students to purchase cookie dough and wrapping paper.

Loureiro said more than 1,000 schools in 22 states now take part in Boosterthon events, which each year offer different themes geared toward leadership and character building. He said the event is centered primarily for students in pre-kindergarten to the sixth grade. Along with the character-building components, students pledge to run laps around the course in exchange for donations. Loureiro said students can run a maximum of 35 laps.

The Hollifield Station Elementary PTA website challenged each student to gather at least two pledges, but students took part regardless of how many they secured, PTA officials said.

There was a Boosterthon run for pre-kindergarten through second grade, then one for third through fifth grade. Many ran until Loureiro counted down the final seconds.

"I like how we get to run a lot of laps and ask people if they can give money to our school so we can get prizes," Justin Reed, 10, a Hollifield Station Elementary fifth-grader.

"You get to run and it doesn't matter how many laps you do," said Lilly French, 9, a Hollifield Station Elementary fourth-grader.

"It's great to see the kids excited about working and encouraging one another," said Lilly's mother, Coral French. "They're doing something positive for their school and themselves as well."

Jeremy Reed, Justin's father, said the fun run offers another opportunity to encourage staying active, "not only with teaching with character and leadership, but in order for the kids to earn the money they've been donated they actually have to go outside and exercise."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com