CORPUS CHRISTI — Preparation for a 5K often occurs on a track, a trail, a treadmill or on the street.

Years before that, though, preparation for the It’s Your Life 5K walk and run April 26 has already begun in school auditoriums and gymnasiums.

“What are healthy foods?” a high school volunteer asked at a recent presentation to about 100 kindergartners at Corpus Christi Independent School District’s Hicks Elementary School. The volunteer is part of iConquer, a diabetes and obesity prevention program by It’s Your Life designed and presented by teenagers for elementary students.

“Bananas. Apples,” a few kids called out, tentatively.

They had reason to know. This was the third of four iConquer presentations at the school. The kindergartners had already seen a puppet show and a short animated movie on healthy eating, learned a song about fruits and vegetables, and met Banunu, the life-size yellow fuzzy mascot who vouches for the benefits of healthy snacks.

As the high school volunteers gave smiles and nods of encouragement, the younger students’ excitement built.

“Carrots! Spinach! Blueberries!” kids shouted.

The excitement is contagious to the older students as well, who have given themselves healthy fruit and vegetable nicknames.

“We like to see how excited they are to see us,” said Jason “Jalapeño” Dominguez, a volunteer from Carroll High School.

Early preparation is a key strategy of the It’s Your Life Foundation, which aims to reach children with messages of healthy living before unhealthy habits are ingrained. In addition to iConquer, the nonprofit encompasses other projects: the Anti-Tobacco prevention program and the KNIGHTS (Keep Nurturing and Inspiring Good Habits in Teen Sleep) program against sleep deprivation in teens.

Volunteers estimate that It’s Your Life, now in its fourth year, has reached 30,000 children with its programming. Proceeds from the 5K will benefit projects including a new animated movie about diabetes. The event also funds a special incentive: the top three schools with the most 5K finishers earn grants for their physical education programs.

The benefits of joining as a community to walk and run are equally valuable, organizers said.

“It’s not just about raising money, it’s also about raising awareness,” said Sara “Strawberry” Surani, one of the core group of high school volunteers. “We’re seeing more and more students coming out each year and getting motivated to live healthy lives.”

IF YOU GO

What: It’s Your Life 5K run and walk

When: 7:45 a.m. April 26

Where: Cole Park

Cost: Free/17 and under; $30/adults in advance; $35 at packet pickup, race day

Information: www.itsyourlifefoundation.org

UPCOMING EVENTS

Arise-n-Run 5K run & walk: 8 a.m. Saturday, 3115 Ocean Drive

Rockport Earth Day & Redfish Run 5K run & walk, 2-mile walk, & 1K kids fun run: 8:45 a.m. Saturday, 111 N. Austin St., Rockport

CASA Superhero 5K run & walk, 2-mile walk, & 1K kids fun run: 8 a.m. May 3, Heritage Park, 1581 N. Chaparral St.

Details and registration available via www.corpusroadrunners.com

© 2014 Corpus Christi Caller Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.