Empowering Girls Through Running

Remember a few year’s back when there was a huge “princess” backlash? We worried that our daughters had been misled into believing in fairy tales rather than aspiring to be smart, strong and accomplished. It certainly raised some concerns for me as my three girls were (at the time) enamored with sparkly gowns and pink plastic high heels.

Now that my kiddos have rejected all things pink and princessy, I realize the whole thing may have been a bit overblown. Still, our society continues to send mixed messages to girls making empowerment an important ongoing issue. That’s where the nonprofit, Girls on the Run, fits in. Recently, I had the chance to speak with Greater Boston Council Director Bethany McDonald to learn more.

Girls on the Run

Girls on the Run is a nationwide after-school program intent on helping girls in Grades 3-8 feel “joyful, healthy and confident.” Each state has several “Councils” covering a specific region, and each Council is made up of multiple volunteer-led teams. Teams can meet in schools, churches, or community centers. The only requirement? The venue must have both indoor and outdoor space available.

How It Works

Newton teams are part of the Greater Boston Council and follow a set curriculum. Coaches — all of whom are volunteers — are required to do online and in-person training. Adult volunteers do not need to be runners, however — don’t let that scare you off!

Girls on the Run provides supplies + $15/girl for healthy snacks. The program is not free: Each girl pays a fee of $175 to participate, but the nonprofit does offer a sliding scale and will never turn any girl away regardless of ability to pay.

Teams meet twice a week for 10 weeks. Each session is 90-minutes long and includes life lessons about standing up for oneself and building a positive body image — this is in addition to the time reserved for running. Each team also selects, plans and participates in a community impact project.

This program was instrumental in changing the way my daughter looks at exercise. She’s never been “traditionally athletic” and for years I’ve tried to find a physical outlet for her. This spring, I found the answer in GOTR. It was an amazing experience that encouraged my daughter to run or walk (just keep moving!), as part of a positive, enthusiastic and empowered group of girls. There was tremendous team spirit and together they discussed lessons such as being kind and compassionate, how to make good (personal) choices and how to stay positive in times of stress. I could go on and on. I look forward to another season of GOTR for my daughter, and I encourage any parents of girls to get involved or start a team!

Holly

LiveNewton Co-founder, mom to 10 year-old girl

Examples of Community Impact Projects

In the past, community impact projects have included the following:

– Baking dog treats for an animal shelter

– Making cards for a girl who was finishing chemo

– Picking up trash and planting flowers in a park

This is just a sampling of projects, of course. What any given team chooses will inevitably be driven by the interests of its members and the needs of the community at large.

Two Seasons & a 5k

Each year is divided into two seasons: Fall, which begins in mid-September, and Spring, which starts in mid-March. At the end of the season, all Council teams assemble and compete in a celebratory 5k.

Want to Start a Team at Your School?

Currently, only two Newton elementary schools — Bowen and Mason-Rice — have Girls on the Run programs. But we can change that! To create a team, you need a minimum of 4 adult volunteers (3 coaches and/or a site liaison). Teams must include a minimum of 8 girls and max out at 20.

If you are interested in learning more, contact Bethany McDonald at bethany.mcdonald@girlsontherun.org or complete the application on the Girls on the Run Greater Boston Website.

Site applications are due July 1st and the Fall season begins in mid-September, so the deadline to organize and apply is quickly approaching. Don’t wait!

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Author: Jen

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