Every parent knows that a little fresh air, sunshine (if we are lucky) and physical activity can make the difference between a good day and a difficult day when it comes to our kids. Here in Seattle, we are lucky enough to live in a beautiful region with great outdoor options for children to enjoy; at least once the rain starts to let up! Have you ever considered adding charity walk/run events to your list of things to do outdoors with your family? If not, 2012 is the year to give it a shot! Local 5k events present a perfect opportunity to “pay it forward” as a family, while getting that coveted fresh air, exercise and fun. In order to help you find the best event for your brood, we’ve rounded up some great kid-friendly walks in Seattle.

First up is the March Forth Fun Run which benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. A perfect fit for families new to 5k events, the course travels around Greenlake and is open to all ages and athletic abilities. The event kicks off Sunday, March 4th (go figure), with a free mini-march for kids at 8:45 am and a 5k and 10k option for runners starting at 9:00 am. Strollers will need to start at the back of the pack during the 5 and 10k runs, so this event is ideal for families who want a leisurely pace. The course is generally flat; easy to navigate with strollers, packs, snacks and everything else kiddos travel with! Local marching bands will be playing all around Greenlake, which means you can walk, run or even dance in support of Leukemia.

A few weeks later, on March 17th at 8:30 am, the popular St Patrick’s Day Dash will take place in downtown Seattle. A fundraiser for Northwest Children’s Charities, the Patty’s Day Dash is known for its leprechauns, decorated strollers and sea of green participants. The course covers about 4 miles of city streets and involves some hills and grades. Like most of the timed races, strollers will be required to let the runners go first. Although families start from the back, the Dash is packed with so many fun things to see, your kids will be sure to enjoy themselves. Come dressed up in green and be ready for the Leprechaun Lap, a 1/2 mile race for children 10 and under that starts at 8:00 am. This event might not be the easiest course, but it is definitely the most entertaining.

When April finally rolls around, celebrate Earth Day with the Magnuson Series 5k/10k/15k event on April 21st at 8:15 am. An established running club in the Seattle area, Magnuson holds events each month of the year. After operating costs are paid, proceeds go to a non-profit running club that works to support local running and spread the message on fitness and healthy lifestyle choices. The course is always around Magnuson Park, which is beautiful location along Lake Washington with easy access and parking. Strollers and even the family dog are allowed to attend, however the course is all terrain so make sure everyone is dressed and equipped to handle unpaved paths. A 200-400 meter kid’s dash takes place each morning before the main event, so be sure to arrive early enough to participate. The Magnuson series is a great opportunity to make healthy living a regular, monthly event in your household.

The spring fun run season will wrap up on May 20th with Nordstrom’s 30th annual Beat the Bridge Race for Diabetes. This event may be more personal for many participants as diabetes is becoming a common health concern in America today. If you have a family member or friend living with diabetes, this event might be the right way to “pay it forward.”  This event can be a lot of fun for serious runners as the objective is to literally beat the University Bridge before it’s raised. For families with infants and young children, there are a number of casual race options to choose from, like the 4-mile family walk which starts at 8:00 am. Later that morning at 10:15 am, the Diaper Derby will begin. An exciting event for toddlers and their cheerleading parents, the derby is sure to be one of the highlight of the morning. The race starts from University of Washington’s Husky Stadium, where you will find free parking and beautiful campus scenery. Like all charity walks, Beat the Bridge is an investment into a healthy and happier future for our children.

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–Sarah Bartz