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PEPPERELL — This school year students at Nissitissit Middle School were invited to join “The 100 Mile Club,” a nationwide program started in California 20 years ago, that has made its way to Pepperell.

The program does more than encourage children to be active.

“The philosophy is the belief that every single individual has the ability to achieve true personal success and a new level of physical fitness by Accepting the Challenge of running (or walking) 100 miles at school during a single school year,” said NMS coordinator, Kendra Stanton.

Stanton received approval to bring this program to NMS.

The club is open schoolwide and can include students, staff, parents and grandparents. For the first year, the participation numbers are impressive with 124 signed up for this personal challenge.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, after-school students can stay to run or walk; or, they can do their miles at home. Students who participate in NMS cross-country can count their miles for both the team and the 100 miles challenge.

If students participated in the Pepperell Covered Bridge 5K race in September, they were able to count those miles as well.

If students are Boy Scouts who did the 10k hike, they were able to count that towards their 100-mile goal.

There is no cost to the school as each participant paid $12, which covers the cost of a 100-Mile Club T-shirt and various incentives along the way. The T-shirt is awarded once a club member has completed the first 25 miles; a pencil is awarded at 50 miles; a bracelet at 75, and a medal at 100, along with a certificate of completion.

Students even calculated routes inside the school for those cold winter days. One is referred to as “Lotta Stairs,” which involves eight laps including stairs. The other route is referred to as “Fewer Stairs” and aptly does not have as many ups and downs on NMS staircases.

Zach Rea is an eighth-grade club member. He joined at the end of September and has found that not only is he working toward a fitness goal, he has also made some good friends in the club.

As of January, he had already walked about 60 miles and expected to log many more while in a Disney park with his family during school vacation week.

While the goal of the 100 Mile Club is 100 miles, Zach’s personal goal is 150 miles by the end of the school year.

With his sneakers, his friends and a great big smile, he is very likely to achieve that goal.