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Danya Rosen: Executive Director of Chicago Run

Chicago Run is determined to keep the kids of Chicago healthy, happy, and empowered. As the Executive Director, Danya ensures that the nonprofit is always running (literally) smoothly. By working in 34 Chicago neighborhoods and 53 partner schools and community sites, Chicago Run is able to serve over 16,000 kids across the city. We sat down with Danya to chat about all things fitness!

Can you tell us about the communities you work with?

Chicago Run exists because there are fundamental inequities in our communities and not all young people have equal access to programs focusing on physical activity and social and emotional wellbeing. In fact, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health, nearly half of all youth in Chicago are living in neighborhoods that lack resources for healthy development. These disparities and barriers disproportionately impact youth of color in under-resourced communities.

Chicago Run focuses programming in communities that lack equal access to physical activity and play. Last fiscal year, 16,000 youth participated in Chicago Run programs in 34 neighborhoods. We believe that everyone is a runner, and our programs are inclusive of young people of all identities and ability levels. We partner with Chicago Public Schools, community centers, and the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

What does your programming entail?

Chicago Run empowers young people from Pre-K through high school with equitable access to inclusive running and physical activity programs. Through the power of sport, we build resilience to stress and trauma and develop critical social and emotional skills.

Our continuum of programming includes:

  • Little Strides, our Pre-K program, uses an innovative approach to early childhood education and focuses on developing vital gross motor skills

  • Chicago Runners, our in-school physical activity program for elementary students, promotes movement and builds physical literacy to enhance classroom concentration

  • Running Mates, our after-school program, utilizes running to improve social emotional well-being, develop a positive self-image, and build relationships with peers and positive mentors

  • LACE Up!, our program designed for high school and college program alumni, promotes the development of leadership and mentorship skills by enabling participants to serve as paid Junior Coaches

How do you think running improves kids’ physical and emotional health?

Sport is an incredibly powerful tool for positive youth development and healing! In addition to the physical benefits, sport – and running in particular – builds critical skills for healthy development, as well as resiliency to stress and trauma.

What is the best part of your job?

I feel so fortunate to be in a role that combines my personal and professional passions. I’m an avid rock climber and runner, and I played sports growing up. While I was never the fastest or best kid on the team, participating in sport programming developed my confidence, helped me make friends – and developed my competitive spirit! I’m also excited for how much potential there is to continue elevating the field of ‘sport based youth development’, or utilizing sport for positive youth development. I’m proud to work at an organization, and with an incredible team, that’s working diligently to provide equitable opportunities and access to physical activity programming.


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