On August 18, 2018, Westview Elementary School sixth-grade teacher Mark Messner was honored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) and Sporting KC as the August Blue KC Sporting Samaritan.
“Mark is making an incredible impact at Westview,” said Christina Lively, Department Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Blue KC. “His desire to make a difference in the lives of students through the Westview Run Club is truly worth recognizing, and we are pleased to honor him as a Blue KC Sporting Samaritan program."
Six years ago while serving at Westview, Messner was inspired to use his personal passion for athletics to help his students develop character skills. As an avid runner, soccer player and triathlete, he knew that there were invaluable life lessons to be learned through competition, and he wanted to help his students uncover them before they moved on from Westview. The result was the Westview Run Club: a no-cost after-school program available to all of the school’s 4th- through 6th-grade students.
Since its inception, the program has steadily increased in participation and now includes almost 90 young Westview runners. Beyond the numbers, however, Messner considers the real success to be in the character development he’s seen in the athletes through spending extra time with a caring teacher and challenging themselves physically and mentally.
“I could passionately go on and on for hours about individual students who have done amazing things after participating in the program,” said Messner, now in his 14th year of teaching and his 10th at Westview. “I am most proud of the growth I see in my students.”
Among the life lessons Messner tries to incorporate into the club’s runs are those focused on leadership, teamwork, mental toughness and perseverance. He also selects six students each season to serve as club captains who assist him in running the program and learn more about leadership and teamwork.
“Despite strengths and weaknesses we focus on growth and improvement,” said Messner, who grew up in the Kansas City area, attending Leawood Elementary, Leawood Middle School and St. Thomas Aquinas High School. “I have been blown away by my kids and their progress.”
In addition to the Westview Run Club, Messner also has worked to increase the school’s participation in the Lee’s Summit School District’s annual 5K. For several years, Messner tried to encourage student participation without much success. But after realizing that the race registration fee was preventing many of them from signing up, Messner worked to secure registration funds through the help of a generous donor who agreed to cover the fees for as many student runners as Messner could recruit.
With the combination donor’s generosity and Messner’s encouragement, the results have been everything the teacher had hoped.
“Each year the number of participants has increased, and in the past three years we have achieved my goal of over 100 student and staff runners completing the race,” said Messner, who also has one stipulation he puts on the students. “I make my students agree that this may be their first-ever 5K, but it can not be their last, in the hopes that they become life long athletes.”
With Blue KC Sporting Samaritans being honored monthly at Children’s Mercy Park during Sporting home games, fans are encouraged to nominate students and teachers like Brian who are making a positive impact on their schools and in their communities. To nominate, visit https://www.sportingkc.com/bluekc.