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Bridgton Organization Helping Kids in Need Thrive in “Long Run”; NSB Proud to Assist

BRIDGTON —“We serve kids and families in financially stressed households who are largely invisible in our communities and have a lack of readiness for kindergarten. For seven years, we’ve been working to change that.”

The words of Hilary Harper-Wilcoxen provide a concise description of the work of Team Long Run, but hardly scratch the surface of the impact it has made in Bridgton and beyond.

Team Long Run is a non-profit organization that uses reading and active play to offer children in Maine’s rural communities a brighter future. The group’s early reading programs are designed to help young children catch up by the time they reach kindergarten and then keep them reading at grade-appropriate levels throughout their academic careers. At the same time, Team Long Run has also developed a number of in-school and after-school active play programs that have been implemented with great success.  

“We collaborate and work exclusively with Title 1 schools (more than 50% of families are below poverty level) and Head Start centers,” said Hilary, who is the Executive Director of Team Long Run. “All of the programs are free to the kids and have been developed over time to be easily shared and extremely cost-effective.”

Thanks to individual and business donors, Team Long Run has also been able to provide hundreds of running shoes to children who need them and the gift of reading to thousands more.

“Our early literacy programs serve underserved kids from newborns to 11-year-olds in rural Maine. In many homes, reading at home is a rarity and early illiteracy is the norm,” said Chuck Wilcoxen, Founder and Mission Director of Team Long Run. “We have given away over 12,000 books to more than 2,500 children in the last four years.”

Norway Savings Bank has been inspired to financially support Team Long Run for over five years, including a $3,000 contribution in March.

“It is truly only through support such as Norway Savings that we can do our work helping kids who have few, if any, books in their homes,” said Hilary. “It warms our hearts to partner with NSB and it enriches hundreds of children in high-poverty, low-literacy homes.”

“If it were not for Team Long Run and their generous donors, the majority of students would never get to know what it’s like to have books to read at home with their families,” said an elementary principal in rural Maine.

The focus on helping those facing disadvantages in the classroom is paired with a commitment to leading children on a path to discovering the benefits of exercise.

“We believe active play gets kids ready to learn, and early learning is what we’re all about,” said Chuck. “We believe early literacy is supported and encouraged through our active play programs like Sizzle and Pop, which helps develop balance and gross motor skills in children, especially when presented with movement-centric books. As the kids get older, Sizzle and Pop introduces simple and fun exercises and then more challenging ones. It all develops balance and strength.”

Through the materials, themes, and collaboration, the organization is successfully getting students what they need to catch up, keep up, and thrive…in the long run.

“Every child deserves a chance to succeed, and Team Long Run is doing what it can to make that happen with sensitivity and creativity,” said Dan Walsh, President and CEO of Norway Savings Bank. “Their tireless efforts have made a huge difference in helping those who need it most, and we are grateful for their passion and purpose.”

For more information about Team Long Run, including ways you can help, visit www.teamlongrun.org.