Elementary and middle school girls in Iredell and Rowan counties are lacing up their running shoes twice a week: Another season of Girls on the Run has begun.Everyone is training for a 5K race presented by the Iredell Health System on Dec. 14.But the training is about more than preparation for a race. It’s preparation for life. Founded by Charlottean Molly Barker in 1996, the program helps youngsters escape “the girl box,” which is “the place girls go when they don’t think they’re good enough,” said Tanya Kummerow, council director for Iredell and Rowan counties. Because of social pressures, many girls hide the vibrant part of themselves. They’re concerned about the image they project. In the past, this worry surfaced in fifth or sixth grade, but some parents say the problem is now becoming an issue with second-graders.The Girls on the Run curriculum incorporates 5K training with healthy living.“Whether running or participating in everyday life, girls learn you must go at your own pace. Each individual has unique gifts and talents,” Kummerow said.Separate programs for elementary and middle school students equip girls with the resources to achieve their dreams. Teams consisting of eight to 15 participants meet twice a week for 12 weeks in the fall and spring.Core values are incorporated into workouts as team members and coaches discuss positive attitudes, self-respect, diet, nutrition, drugs and alcohol. Like developing life skills and mentoring relationships, running is another tool to instill self-esteem. Girls learn about themselves, interact with others and contribute to their community. As participants plan and implement a team service project, they discover that “just one person can have an impact on the world around them,” Kummerow said.Projects can be as simple as planting flowers at a school or raising thousands of dollars for a park, as a group at Harmony Elementary did. Self-confidence grows as girls engage in the larger community. The culmination of the fall session is a noncompetitive 5K race. Each walker or runner can check her individual time when she crosses the finish line. No medals are awarded. The event is about personal achievement.Race day is a joyous celebration. Smiling girls arrive early to receive packets and bond with teammates. Cheer teams dressed in zany costumes shout encouragement along the route.Everyone has a running buddy, a mom, dad or other family member, who walks or runs with her on race day. These folks are personal cheerleaders. Some girls may not have a buddy. In that case, Girls on the Run assigns a volunteer.Volunteers fuel the nonprofit organization. Coaches, support coaches, board members and 5K planners work behind the scenes to ensure a positive experience for participants.Solemates, a charity component, supports Girls on the Run by raising funds for scholarships.“GOTR has never turned a girl away for inability to pay,” Kummerow said. Sponsorships from local businesses and organizations like the Mooresville Woman’s Club and Saks Orthodontics also provide financial assistance. The fall 5K race at Catawba College in Salisbury is open to everyone. The spring race will be held at Lowe’s corporate headquarters in Mooresville. Kummerow would like to see 200 or 250 runners register for each race.
Saturday, Oct. 05, 2013
Girls on the Run builds self-esteem
Learn more Girls on the Run needs volunteers and sponsors for scholarships. Volunteer at gotriredell.org. Contact Kummerow at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sandra Phillips is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Sandra? Email her at email@example.com.
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