January 9th, 8:41 PM EST By Desiree Montilla
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A local nonprofit is moving their free running program for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Run Your City is part of Run Charlottesville, was founded in 2018 by two members of the UVA cross country and track and field team in the summer of 2018. Mary Blankemeier, the founder of Run Your City, said the purpose of their program is to introduce kids to running while helping them make connections in the community. "Every kid, regardless of socio-economic background or ability level, should have an opportunity to be introduced to sports and particularly running," Blankemeier said. "It's also a unique sport like you don't need much. A pair of running shoes goes a long way." Blankemeier says the program is also about forming community between kids and local athletes. We've done it in person these six week seasons alternating between practices and race days where where kids are paired up with Division I athletes and UVA students and go through exercises," she said. This year, the exercises for the program will be moved online due to COVID-19. Christian Jenkins, a community outreach coordinator for Run Your City, said they will still aim towards their goals by forming small teams. Each team will consist of one to two UVA students leading up to 10 kids. "We'll send out different challenges, workouts and race days stuff like that so kids can really participate," Jenkins said. "Every time they do a workout or every time or run, we'll have them send pictures or images so we can still keep that same team feel so you can see what your teammates are doing." Even though the program is moving online, Blankemeier hopes this will show their kids how they can work together and learn a new sport even if they're miles apart. "It just speaks to a greater sense of community and also resilience," she said. The virtual season will run from Feb. 7 through March 14. To learn more about this program, you can click here.