A group of 60 Mesa teens hope their Run for Life event Saturday will help save the lives of African children whose families and communities are ravaged by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Run for Life, 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Centre Court Park, 1440 N. 40th St., will include a one-mile run, a cakewalk, face painting, an inflatable playhouse, food and prizes. The event costs $15 per person. Shirts will be available for registered run participants and for unregistered participants who arrive early.
The youngsters, ages 13 to 18, who organized the event, have raised $12,400 for the Stay Alive project of United Families International, an abstinence and HIV/AIDS prevention program. Stay Alive teaches children between the ages of 9 and 14 how to make better choices about their health and future.
Jon Forrest, 13, an eighth-grader at Mesa's Stapley Junior High School, and his mother, Debbie Forrest, started organizing Run for Life six weeks ago. Jon, who is a Boy Scout, was inspired by his mom's work at United Families International, and mapped out a three-page plan to get kids together in an effort to raise $25,000 in one month for African children.
"I loved helping the African children, and every time I received a dollar I felt like I saved a child's life," he said.
Every dollar donated helps one child, according to the information published on the Stay Alive Web site, www.stayalive.org.
Proceeds from the Run for Life will provide materials for new programs in Tanzania and Liberia.
According to Stay Alive director Kelli Houghton, the program teaches children in 10 African countries the concept of consequence. Houghton said African culture primarily teaches children that "whatever God wills, will be." So Stay Alive stresses personal choice, responsibility and empowerment.
Debbie Forrest said one of the best experiences throughout the past few weeks has been "working with the incredibly motivated youth in the community and learning how many people in our community are generous and give to so many worthwhile causes."