This is an article that I submitted to the Cincinnati Enquirer after volunteering last year with Girls on the Run as a Mission Adelaide. Basically, I visited with a group of girls at their school a few times while training for their very first 5k race and then I got to be there for the big day to record it. It has been a little over a year and it was still such an impactful experience for me, so I know it has to be a cherished life lesson for those girls. 2020 has had its challenges, now more than ever organizations like these need your help! Please enjoy the article and learn a bit more. There are links at the end for ways you can help contribute either time or money. :-)
What is Girls on the Run? Good questions, Girls on the Run, or GOTR, is a 10-week program for grade-school girls that teaches them on how to run their first 5k. That is the quick explanation. It is SO much more than just a 5k program!
You may have seen the logo around town but, were not aware of all the amazing things it has to offer. I’ve seen the logo at the Flying Pig Expos and on T-shirts for years, but did not know anyone involved or what they do. Besides, I have a son, so it doesn’t apply to me. Right?
However, I was a young girl once. Plus, I am a runner. I discovered running in my early 30s and it changed my life. Running not only helped me lose over 60 lbs., it helped me gain confidence, taught me patience, increased my endurance, and it got me through the most difficult periods of my life. If running could do all that for me, I wanted to share this amazing gift with others.
I thought I was too busy to be involved. But if I can do it, so can you! Yes, YOU. YOU can help make a difference for young girls by being involved with Girls on the Run. There are a variety of involvement levels, my involvement started small as a Mission Adelaide. This requires at least two visits with a selected school and running in a 5k with my group of young ladies, then writing this article. I was quite intimidated about writing this article, but I activated my own GOTR star power and got to writing! Star power is just one of the many lessons girls learn about with Girls on the Run. Little did I know just how much of a difference Girls on the Run makes to young girls in their formative years.
On October 10th, 2019, I went on my first visit to Lincoln Elementary in Dayton, KY. 100% of the girls’ participation in GOTR at Lincoln Elementary is through scholarships obtained through generous donations to the Girls on the Run program. I met my girls; an amazing group of young ladies. Many of them became friends because of the program. Just a few weeks in and this already seems like a tight knit group of friends. Practice started with a snack and casual chat about how things went in everyone’s previous week. Then there is the lesson of the day. That day’s lesson was “words matter”. In front of the girls the coach squeezed some toothpaste out of a tube. The coach said, “Just like the paste, once harmful words are out, it is very difficult to put them back!”. We headed to the gym to do laps. With every lap, the girls received one letter on their forearm with a marker. By the end of the practice, the letters spelled out, “Words Matter”.
A few weeks later, on visit number two, the girls received brand new running shoes provided by donations made to Girls on the Run. The girls not only participate in this amazing program, they each receive brand new New Balance running shoes. When receiving their gift, the girls lit up as bright as the sparkles on their new shoes. They talked about their new kicks with everyone while showing them off. They all seemed to run a bit taller that day than on my first visit. That day’s lesson was on conflict. “STOP – breathe, think, respond”. Each girl made up two conflicts and then did some laps. During laps, if they were tagged, they had to talk through one of their made-up conflicts using the STOP method to reach a resolution. The day wrapped up with discussing the plans for their practice 5k and the final preparations for their official 5k in downtown Cincinnati.
For many of the girls, the event held on November 16th was their first 5k race. 5k is 3.1 miles, quite a feat for little feet. That is approximately 7,100 steps, 7,100 reasons, each step getting them closer to their goal. Each one reaffirming that they can do anything to which they set their mind! All their hard work and lessons from the past 10 weeks paying off when they cross the finish line with their team! Race day was the biggest party I have ever seen! All the girls dancing and signing on stage like rock stars. They made sparkling crowns and superhero capes at craft tables. There were also freebies and prizes. What a great day!
Now, my mission is getting the word out about Girls on the Run, so that others can become involved. I recently signed up to be a SoleMate and help fundraise for the organization. I don’t want my involvement to stop there. I hope to coach a Girls on the Run team next year at a school that does not yet have the program.
This program is so much more than running. Girls on the Run creates a safe place where girls can discuss their problems, celebrate their wins, and gain confidence, while creating friendships and healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Girls on the Run teaches girls that each and every one of them is special; they have something to offer and when activating their star power – they can do anything!
Here are some things that the girls at Lincoln Elementary have to say about Girls on the Run:
“The GOTR program has taught me to not have a cloud over my star” -Rayna
“My coaches encourage me to love myself” -Adriana
“My favorite part of the season has been when I ran and learn more about my new friends and coaches” -Canaya
“I am most confident when I run with my friends and teachers” -Zoe
To learn more, please visit: https://www.girlsontherun.org