All Carsyn Kiekhaefer wanted was to be on a team.
She made that wish come true this fall when she joined Girls on the Run at Grand Oak Elementary in Huntersville, and after writing about her experience, won a local Girls on the Run essay contest.
Her essay will now be part of the nonprofit’s upcoming marketing campaign for Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties, and it was submitted for consideration to be a part of the national organization’s promotional video for next spring.
Carsyn, who is 10 and in the fifth grade at Grand Oak, joined Girls on the Run at the beginning of the school year and capped her experience with a 5K race on Saturday.
Girls on the Run is a 12-week after-school program that meets twice a week and serves girls in grades 3-8. In addition to team-building exercises, discussing topics that encourage positive development and running, teams are expected to complete a service project in their communities. The program ends with the team running a 5K together and with friends and family.
Carsyn also joined Girls on the Run to make friends and get exercise. She ended up loving the pre-run meetings in Grand Oak’s art room, where coaches taught them about navigating life experiences and held group activities.
One topic Carsyn particularly enjoyed was about bullying and how to stop it. She said after that lesson, she’s treated her brother a little more kindly and knows how to deal with bullying when she sees it happen at school.
When one of her coaches told her about the essay contest, Carsyn wasn’t sure she’d participate because she had a busy schedule. But because she’s loved her experience (and found some free time), she sat down and wrote the 279-word essay in a couple of hours.
“I was trying to put in everything I loved about it,” she said.
Getting recognized for the essay was an exciting way to finish this semester’s program.
“She was thrilled,” said her mom, Valerie Kiekhaefer. “We’re very, very proud of her.”
As a reward, Carsyn won free registration for Saturday’s 5K in Huntersville, which about 7,000 people signed up for, said Jessica Otto, Girls on the Run of Charlotte council director.
“Her essay was really good, and we thought it was really powerful and exemplified what Girls on the Run is and why people should want to get involved,” she said.
Carsyn was a team player and gave a lot of encouragement to her peers, said Catherine Royster, Carsyn’s fifth-grade teacher and one of her coaches.
“She’s just a team leader ... because of her positive attitude,” Royster said.
Her principal at Grand Oak, Raymond Giovanelli, said. “She really goes out of her way to engage people. She really is one of those kids who’s a great role model at the school.”