“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.
From the Girls on the Run Mission Statement
As a mother to two young girls, I cannot help sometimes but to compare their upbringing to my own. And when I think about that, I think about the opportunities that were available to me as a child vis-à-vis the opportunities they have. I have to say, it’s vastly different. Sure, when I was a kid, outside of the school day, there were a few sports programs available and a few academic enrichment programs, but nothing like what is available to my children. And lest you think I’m complaining, bemoaning my childhood, let me stop you right here. I’m not. I am super impressed and grateful for the opportunities my girls have in my community. Cooking classes, field hockey, lacrosse, full-day academic programs, mixed sports, summer camp and swimming lessons are just a few of the activities my children have participated in.
I realized recently (I have NO IDEA why this didn’t occur to me when I made the decision to have children…oh right, I was just focused on the cute baby part. The tween and teen years never came into my thinking…DUH says current me to past me) that part of being a child means you have to actually grow up and learn some potentially very hard lessons. Am I up to the task of guiding them? Will they listen to me and will my advice stick before they enter the “My mom is a complete IDIOT” phase? How do I teach them concepts like kindness and self-esteem, when so much of their time is not spent with me?
Enter Girls on the Run, or GOTR as it will be referred to interchangeably.
I first heard about Girls on the Run when visiting family in Western New York. I have three nieces who live there, and they and their parents were talking about this after school personal enrichment and 5K running program they all were participating in. In addition to training for a celebratory 5K event that was to be held at the end of the season, they also included lessons and discussions about topics relevant to girls; about self-confidence, compassion, and teamwork. How cool, I thought. Wouldn’t it be great to have something like that for my girls?
GOTR popped up on my radar again shortly thereafter, when someone from a running group I belong to posted about a 5K race for girls that she helped coach. And I realized that this really is a THING! Where is it? How can I learn more? Can my kids participate?
I then took the step to Google Girls on the Run. By the time I finished reading their mission statement, I was like, WOW, YES, AWESOME!! And my interest suddenly became two-fold. I wanted to write about the organization for Runitlikeamom, and I also wanted to find out if the program could be brought to my community.
I sent an email to the national organization, and I was able to communicate with Ami Hill, the Council Support Manager, and Carrie Hanson, Vice President of Marketing and Communications. Ami graciously sent me some of the organization highlights and initiatives:
Girls on the Run has 225 councils in 49 states and the District of Columbia, which serve approximately 179,000 girls with 120,000 volunteers each year. In 2015, GOTR celebrated its one millionth participant! They’re not stopping there, though; they have a goal of reaching one million more girls by 2020.
There are currently two programs designed for different ages. The Girls on the Run curriculum targets girls in grades 3rd-5th, and a program rolled out in 2015, called Heart and Sole, is geared toward 6th-8th grade girls.
GOTR celebrates it’s 20th Birthday in 2016, and has rolled out the Born to Run marketing and fundraising campaign to celebrate this milestone. The campaign is designed to engage GOTR supporters to “celebrate the joy, health and confidence that our program has brought girls, coaches, families and communities over the years.” Seriously, check it out, there are a lot of really cool ideas and activities!
During my communications with Ami and Carrie, I noted that two of GOTR’s major partners are ESPN and Cigna, both of whom have headquarters in Connecticut, and expressed some curiosity that there wasn’t a Hartford-area council established. I was planning on asking her about the process to establish a local council, and she surprised me by telling me that an application was in the works to establish a GOTR council in Hartford, CT. She informed me that the effort was being headed by Cigna, and she recommended that I contact Jen Byrne, who was working with a team at Cigna championing the effort. Ami also let me know that the Cigna team was making some significant progress with establishing the local GOTR council, and, if approved, they would be projected to hold their inaugural season this fall 2016.
I spoke with Jen Byrne and Bria Day (another member of the Cigna team) about what they were doing to bring a GOTR council to the Hartford area; during the course of our conversation, I was able to glean some of their personal motivation behind their efforts. For both of these women, getting involved with GOTR seems to be almost pre-destined. They are both runners and had forged a friendship through running (between them, they have completed 12 full marathons and nearly 20 half marathons), they both have a desire to contribute to their communities and they both came across GOTR through Cigna’s Civic Foundation. And they both strongly believe in GOTR’s mission to empower young girls. These women, along with the rest of their team, have done so much to make this a reality, and I cannot express how much I appreciate their dedication and hard work.
I do currently have the paperwork to apply to have the Hartford-area pilot program in my community; and I have the support of the local parties that I have contacted (I’m not at liberty to name names just yet). Right now, it’s just a matter of connecting with the correct parties with the local GOTR council and hoping the magic happens to bring Girls on the Run to my town in the fall. But whether the organization selects my community for the pilot program or not, I fully intend on supporting their establishment in this general area. It really is THAT amazing and THAT important.
Please take a moment to check out this fantastic organization. There are volunteer and supporter opportunities available, as well as celebratory activities, merchandise and so much other good information on their website.
I’ll be sure to keep you posted about where the first Hartford area program gets established and let you know what kind of support and volunteer opportunities arise. For me, I’m looking forward to helping young girls obtain a strong sense of self and get running!
Girls on the Run Core Values:
- Recognize our power and responsibility to be intentional in our decision making
- Embrace our differences and find strength in our connectedness
- Express joy, optimism and gratitude through our words, thoughts and actions
- Nurture our physical, emotional and spiritual health
- Lead with an open heart and assume positive intent
- Stand up for ourselves and others
learn. dream. live. run.