Paula is the Executive Director at NCH Safe & Healthy Children’s Coalition of Collier County. In that role she also helps to manage one of our charity recipients, the 95210 Kids on the Go! program. She does so with former chair Todd Vedder, a pediatrician and board member. Learn more about Todd Here!
Paula got into running at the Gobble Gobble Four Miler in 2009, along with her husband, Golden Gate High Football coach, Mike DiGrigolli. They had a wonderful experience running that year. When asked why she ran, she admitted that she knew she would likely eat too much on Thanksgiving. The four mile distance was unique as it was just a bit longer than a 5K.
Since then it has been the 95210 Kids on the Go! program that has inspired her love for running. Paula says, “When you see the faces of the kids and the self esteem they have gained at the final mile events, you want to set an example yourself.” Kids begin to run laps, and over 12 weeks, amass 25.2 miles before the “final mile” event that completes the distance of a full marathon cumulatively. She also wants to set a good example for her kids Andrés and Isabella.
This inspired Paula to train for her first Half Marathon and sprint triathlon. It was the Gobble Gobble that gave her the confidence and training to get her there along the way. She has made running a part of her lifestyle and has made healthier choices in her diet as well. Paula enjoys listening to audio books as she runs. Paula says,“If I can do it anyone can do it. I am so inspired by everyone who participates from all walks of life at the Gobble Gobble and other events. You become empowered with a sense of incredible accomplishment.”
That sense of accomplishment has fueled her to help this Coalition makes some pretty amazing accomplishments of its own. This summer they managed to break a world record at the Sun N’ Fun lagoon by participating in the World’s Largest Swim Lesson. They got the highest number of participants ever, nearly 1300, with the help of 40 agencies and 8 months of work in putting it together.
The 95210 program which includes 9 hours of sleep, 5 fruits and vegetables daily, 2 hours maximum of screen time, 1 hour of exercise daily, and 0 sugary beverages has been particularly inspiring. Seeing the results of teachers in Collier County has also been rewarding. They get the kids out there two to three times a week, working together with many incredible community partners to show the schools the differences that can be made. Teachers have begun to notice systemic changes reflected within their classrooms.
It was Dr. Todd Vedder, she says, who was instrumental in the early development of this coalition. He jumped on board and became a leader for drowning prevention, and preventing SIDS, which are the two leading causes of death for children ages 0-18 in Collier County. Childhood obesity was always going to be a focus, coming into play after Todd attended a conference in Boston. At that point, help from Race Director, Matt Sonneborn, pointed us in the right direction with research into Marathon Kids, developing sponsorship opportunities.
Paula is tireless in her pursuit to help children’s well being. She is the driving force directing another event called the Color Collier Healthy Run taking place at the North Collier Regional Park. They have managed to get 1000 participants in just their second year. They will be able to do so much good for the children of Collier County with the money they raise.
Be sure and thank Paula and Dr. Vedder for all they do with the Safe & Healthy Children’s Coalition of Collier County by liking and sharing this post.