Why I Volunteer with Girls on the Run (and why you should too!)

WE BELIEVE THAT EVERY GIRL

CAN EMBRACE WHO SHE IS,

CAN DEFINE WHO SHE WANTS TO BE,

CAN RISE TO ANY CHALLENGE,

CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.

CAN.”

– From the Girls on the Run Mission Statement

After finishing my first Boston Marathon, I realized how rewarding running can be.  I’m not sure if it was finally completing something I had trained for for months, making a killer group of running friends, or seeing a tremendous physical change in what my body was capable of, but something made finishing a marathon one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

When I moved to West Hartford I got involved with the Junior League.  In the Junior League I have met some great girls, including Jen Byrne who championed the establishment of a Girls on the Run Council in Hartford.  When Jen told me about Girls on the Run, I immediately knew I should get involved and share the amazing and rewarding experience that is training for and finishing a race.

Girls on the Run is a personal enrichment program for girls in 3rd through 5th grade.  It is an international non-profit with a mission to teach young girls about body positivity, self-esteem and goal setting in an after school program through a running-based curriculum.  Even though the program is running-based, the girls do not need to be runners (at all!) to participate.  While our group has some runners, we also have some girls who would rather skip, walk, jog, “jump rope,” or crab-walk through their laps.  Each program ends in a 5K race.  Here in WeHa, ours ends at the Blue Back Mitten Run in December!

Even though we are just over halfway through the season, we have already seen such tremendous changes in all of the girls in our group.  Not so much a physical change more of an emotional change.

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On the first day of GOTR, the girls were all very shy, seemed to stick with their friends who joined the program with them, and had trouble opening up during the  lessons.  Now almost half way through the season, the girls have done a complete 180! They are all so comfortable with each other.  You can see the girls light up when they see their friends at GOTR lessons.  We have even had some girls open up about being bullied at school and the rest of the group supported them and talked them through how to handle it.  It is really amazing to see the girls change in this way.  There is so much bullying, negative self image, and body image issues starting so young in school, and GOTR provides a program that actually works to counter all of these things!

This season has been extremely rewarding, and I am already looking forward to coaching again next season.  For more information on how to volunteer with Girls on the Run go to girlsontherun.org and select your local chapter.  Even if you can’t commit to being a coach, there are many other ways to get involved.

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Read some other thoughts on why volunteering with Girls on the Run is so rewarding here.

Hope to see you all cheering at (or running in) the Mitten Run in December, if not sooner!

XX.

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