Jenny Williams (far right) and members of the cross-country team at the Indian River School in Canaan, NH. Photo by Cheryl Senter.

Jenny Williams (far right) and members of the cross-country team at the Indian River School in Canaan, NH. Photo by Cheryl Senter.

Believing in every kid

Through the Children’s Fund of the Upper Valley, Jenny Williams gets kids running

Jenny Williams loves to run.

And, through the Children’s Fund of the Upper Valley, she is getting kids running. Research on childhood obesity and the effect of exercise on brain development show that she’s on the right track.

And, she said, “I have experienced the huge boost to self-esteem that running can provide.”

Williams launched a cross-country team for the Indian River School in Canaan in collaboration with Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Healthy Eating, Active Living program. She secured Olympic-caliber coaches, provided funding through the Children’s Fund, got new uniforms donated. She established the “Sneaker Fund” for kids who couldn’t afford running shoes.

Williams started the Children’s Fund in 2006 with general partner David Leatherwood of Norwich Partners, a hotel development company; they have since granted more than $1 million to organizations that support kids and families — from the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth to the Children’s Literacy Foundation.

“If you can help a kid who is faced with family and socioeconomic challenges when he or she is young, it can have a much greater impact,” Williams said, “rather than trying to solve problems that may develop later in life.”

Williams and Leatherwood elected to operate the fund as a donor advised fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, tapping into the Foundation’s knowledge and relationships to guide their work.

And, she laughed, “I would much rather be coaching than doing that accounting.”

And Williams will keep the kids running.

“It’s about empowerment,” she said. “To help them understand that they’re good at something, that they can set a goal and accomplish it.”

This story originally appeared in the Foundation’s 2013 Annual Report.