She has the children of Clinton County running for their lives.
Wright State University nursing alumna Renee Quallen helped establish 26th Mile Clinton County, a wellness and fitness program modeled after the Cincinnati Flying Pig’s 26th Mile Program. The Clinton County program, which began in 2015, is an incremental marathon in which children pre-kindergarten through fifth grade meet weekly to run, learn about nutrition, read and practice mindfulness.
“We host a final mile in our community where the children meet to run the last 26th mile together,” said Quallen, director of the Clinton County Health District’s WIC (Women, Infant and Children) Program. “Childhood obesity is a huge health concern. Anything that we can do to promote healthy lifestyles in children is an important benefit.”
The program is funded by local grants and donations. Government officials hand out medals in the running event. Retired teachers and librarians help with the reading component.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the final mile was not held this year. However, the health district is looking forward to hosting it again next year.
Quallen grew up participating in sports but didn’t begin running until after she became a mother.
“I started running after I became a mom because it was a simple way as a working mom to maintain a healthy fitness level and to have some time for me,” she said. “It is something you can do some form of for a long time and without much of a time commitment or equipment.”
Quallen grew up in the Jamestown area. Her mother taught at Greeneview Schools and her father worked at the Wilmington Post Office. After graduating from Clinton Massie High School, Quallen attended Capital University, where she graduated in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine/athletic training. For two years she worked as an athletic trainer in the Cincinnati area.
“I have always been interested in health and wellness and knew I wanted to further my education in the medical field,” she said. “I decided I loved caring for women and families and went to nursing school to become a registered nurse.”
Wright State helped pave the way for her career.
“Although I didn’t know that community health was what I was going into when I went to Wright State, I remember the community health course taught by Virginia Nehring being one that that I learned so much from that I can apply to my job daily,” said Quallen.
After graduating from Wright State in 1998 with her bachelor’s degree in nursing, Quallen landed a job on the Mother Baby Care Unit at Clinton Memorial Hospital, where she worked from 1999 to 2009 as a staff nurse and lactation consultant.
In 2009 she began working as an instructor for the LPN program at Hondros College in Fairborn. Then in 2011 she joined the Clinton County Health District as director of the WIC program.
Quallen manages the WIC grant and sees infants, women and children for nutrition assessment and counseling, including breastfeeding assistance.
“As a director in a small clinic, I serve a variety of different roles on a day-to-day basis. It keeps things interesting,” she said. “The most gratifying part of my job is helping empower mothers with skills and knowledge to make health decisions for their families.”
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the clinic has been doing many things remotely, with telephone consultations and social media education more common than in the past.
“That process is going smoothly. We miss our families though and getting to see the babies,” she said. “As a public health nurse, I have also taken on other roles, such as contact tracing to assist with the public health nursing side of things in addition to the WIC program.”