NYRR member Jackie Einstein Astrof isn’t the only member of her family who cares about running. Or about books.
Back in 2011, Astrof read about Miles for Books, a special promotion NYRR offered to schools in their Mighty Milers program. Normally, youngsters in Mighty Milers run to have their miles count toward rewards like medals. But during the month of March that year, miles also counted toward books for their school or classroom libraries. It was a huge success. Kids loved that their running helped their schools and teachers loved the opportunity to connect fit bodies with fit minds. They told NYRR that they couldn’t wait to do it again next year, but 2012 funding for this special incentive hadn’t been secured yet.
Enter Astrof. After learning about Miles for Books in an NYRR newsletter, she and her husband Josh got behind it in a big way. In addition to a direct donation, Josh used his running of the ING New York City Marathon in 2011 to fundraise for the initiative. It became a whole family affair when the couple’s sons, 10-year old Jared and 8-year old Zachary, got involved.
Every year, Astrof explained, her children donate all the change they’ve collected during the year to a favorite cause. Jared, who ran his first 5K last spring, decided he wanted to support Miles for Books too. “They come up with something they’re passionate about,” she said, adding that his choice “is a great tribute to the importance of running and reading in our family.”
Once again, with the Astrof family support, Miles for Books kicked off for the third year in a row on March 1, Read Across America Day. This month, each school can earn up to 100 books, with one school eligible for the grand prize of 500 books. In its first year, more than 200 schools earned books. Last year, the total skyrocketed to 310 when students ran a staggering 1.2 million miles in March. In total, more than 60,000 books have been distributed.
Taken together, the donations from the Astrofs combined with their fundraising has totaled more than $40,000, making it possible for Miles for Books to continue. Astrof calls the initiative “a smart matching of physical and mental conditioning. It also empowers the kids, because through their own efforts they are giving something back. The book isn’t a personal reward, but a reward that can be used by many classmates after achieving something as a group.”
Herself a runner, Astrof is the founder and director of PennPAC, which utilizes the intellectual talents and professional skills of University of Pennsylvania alumni to assist non-profit organizations with specific business and management issues. Besides helping the non-profits, Astrof said, her mission in starting PennPAC was to help the alumni “connect with the world in ways that are meaningful for them.”
She’s clearly done that at home. Her son Jared tells us “Miles for Books is great because then kids can exercise their bodies and use their brains.”