Girls on the Run moves beyond exercisePublished 8:32pm Monday, February 4, 2013
Girls on the Run (GOTR), a nonprofit organization aimed at girl’s ages 8 to15, began as an idea Molly Barker had to bring a positive, life-affirming message to contrast the negative and nearly impossible ideals thrust upon girls. Now, some 16 years later, Girls on the Run is an international foundation that has helped thousands of girls receive that message.
Emily Hosinki, the project manager for the Berrien County Council of GOTR, said she strongly believes in the power of this program and its benefit to participants.
“This is a research-based curriculum; there have been academic evaluations. It’s very much a solid tool in getting girls to be thinking about their place in the world and the power they have over that.”
Despite its name, GOTR is not just a running program. Instead, it incorporates running into various activities and games in which the girls are involved.
It also fosters a healthy emotional and physical environment.
“Some of the running involves games. Also, some of the games are self-esteem games or choice-making games,” said Susan White, who has volunteered as coach for GOTR for the past three years. White’s motivation to become involved in the program stemmed from her background as a runner.
“I wanted the girls to know what it feels like and what kind of self-esteem you can gain from running and being healthy,” White said.
In the spring of every year, GOTR puts on a 5k for its participants. This run combines the hard work the girls and coaches put in during the 12-week
program. For White, it is the most rewarding part of the process.
“Definitely, standing at the finish line. I usually run girls in and run back to get more girls and I think looking at their faces … it’s just amazing, when parents are cheering and people are watching them finish.”
Hosinski also appreciates the significance of completing a 5k, and the message it sends to the girls.
“I think that’s part of the program in itself and the training for the 5k is the idea that you can set a goal for yourself and you can accomplish it. And if you can do that, what else can you possibly do? It’s the idea that you can do anything you set your mind to.”
Amelia, a 9-year-old attending Ballard Elementary School, is joining GOTR for the first time this year. Her sister was a participant, and she said she hopes to see the program benefit her in the same way it did her sibling.
“I think my self-esteem level will go up a little. And my sister did this so I really wanted to try it. She said that it helped her a lot being nicer to people and trusting them better.”
Kaylee, who just turned 11 and also attends Ballard, loves the physical and
social aspect of the program.
“I like the running on the track and talking to your friends while you do it,” she said.
Ten-year-old Jaybriona, a second-year participant, said she learned about “being trustworthy to others and myself.”
Jill Haboush is joining GOTR as a first-time coach, along with her daughter, who will be a first-time participant.
“I have two girls, 9 and 11, and I also reflect back at middle school age … it’s a struggling time, there’s so many changes in your body, and just being around other girls and friends and making the right choices,” Haboush said.
“I thought this would be a great program and a great opportunity to motivate the girls, to help build their self esteem. I know mine was not the strongest at this age either, and I’d like that to e strong for my own girls and their peers here at school.”
Jenny F, another first time volunteer for GOTR joined for slightly different reasons.
“I have two boys at home … I’ve been involved in Boy Scouts, I was a band parent for 18 years, I think that’s the world’s record, and I’m expecting my first granddaughter, which is an experience to deal with girls for me, this is going to be an educational experience,” she said.
With the support of United Way, the Berrien County Council of GOTR is able to offer
a lowered registration fee of $60, compared to the usual $150 to $200, as well as a new pair of New Balance running shoes for all participants.
“Most other councils don’t do that, and that’s all because of the United Way support and that United Way campaign dollars are able to offset our costs to the community, so it is very much a gift to the community from United Way,” Hosinski said.
Visit http://www.uwsm.org/girlsontherun or call (269) 982-1700 ext. 23 for more information.