Union County

Girls on the Run program celebrates 10 years

Bonnie Grote, left, Girls On The Run of Union County council director, stands with Molly Barker, the program’s founder, at the 10th anniversary celebration.
Bonnie Grote, left, Girls On The Run of Union County council director, stands with Molly Barker, the program’s founder, at the 10th anniversary celebration. KIM BECKNELL WILLIAMS

Girls on the Run of Union County celebrated their 10th anniversary with a breakfast for coaches on Sept. 19 at the Women and Children’s Center at Carolinas HealthCare System-Union.

More than 160 people attended.

Bonnie Grote, council director, started Girls on the Run of Union County with nine sites and 90 girls. Since then, 10,000 girls have participated in the program with more than 49 sites, and $250,000 in scholarships have been awarded for girls with financial needs to participate in the program.

Molly Barker, founder of GOTR, was the keynote speaker.

Barker launched Girls on the Run nearly 20 years ago in Charlotte. She started with 13 girls, but it quickly grew to a much bigger program.

“One of the things Girls on the Run is about is be yourself. Be that,” Barker said. “Whatever is the essence of you, be that every day.”

Barker retired from the organization three years ago and now works independently as a leadership speaker.

Girls on the Run International was formed in 2000 and has become a nonprofit organization.

The empowerment program for girls exists in more than 225 cities across the United States and Canada. Volunteer coaches lead weekly lessons for girls grades 3-5, and a new Heart and Sole program is offered at the middle school level. More than 1,000 volunteers have helped with the Union County program. Many of the volunteers serve as coaches.

Coaches were recognized at the breakfast for years of volunteer service. Four of them have coached 10 or more seasons.

A noncompetitive 5K run concludes each 10-12 week program. In Union County, participants conclude their fall season with the GingerSnap 5K in downtown Waxhaw and the spring 5K is held in Lake Park.

Carolinas Healthcare System-Union is a program sponsor for Union County’s Girls On The Run program. Ken Nanney, associate general counsel for the hospital, spoke at the celebratory breakfast.

Nanney worked as independent counsel to help Grote achieve nonprofit status for the Union County program. He compared Girls on the Run to tossing a rock in the water to create a ripple effect.

“Over a million girls have gone through the program,” Nanney said. “Think about the ripples that can make.”

Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer: kimbecknellwilliams@gmail.com.

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