A cool and educational way for girls in third through eighth grades to exercise is offered by Girls on the Run International, a program that creatively incorporates games and activities with life-changing experiences, ending with celebratory 5K running events.
The organization (girlsontherun.org) founded in 1996, involves not only these girls, but their families, GOTR-certified coaches, running companions and volunteers who serve as positive role models. There are more than 46,000 volunteers who deliver the program at more than 6,000 sites. Approximately a third of the participants are provided with full or partial scholarships each year.
According to Hillary Knipstein, council director of the Allen County GOTR, the area organization runs two 10-week seasons, one in the spring and one in the fall.
“The girls meet in teams supervised by volunteer coaches and run a 5K at the end of each season,” said Knipstein, a Fort Wayne attorney with Barrett & McNagny. “We host a 5K during the spring season, and during the fall, our girls run the River City Rat Race.”
The organization is split into two groups – the third through fifth grade program and the sixth through eighth grade program (the older girls’ program is not yet available in the county).
As an after-school program for the younger girls, the GOTR curriculum promotes, “positive emotional, social, mental and physical development, and important strategies and skills to help them navigate life experiences,” according to the website. Physical activity in the program inspires a hopefully lifelong appreciation of fitness and health.
Each team also decides on a community service project and works on it, giving the participants valuable experience in teamwork and the power and joy that comes from helping others.
Two local coaches can attest to the success of the program.
“I had a student whom I found very difficult to blend into the program,” said Dawn Stine, whose daughter Lily is also in the program. “She also had some behavioral issues and was a LOT to handle. But at the end of the session, she shone, and that made my efforts worth every second!”
Coach Marcia Kirlin also shared a personal high.
“One of my girls wrote me the sweetest thank-you letter and I followed up with an email or two to her mom, who then told me her daughter printed out one of her emails to put in her scrapbook. So touching!” said Kirlin.
So, what does it cost a girl to enter the program?
“Our registration fee is based on a sliding scale, according to household income,” said Knipstein, a runner herself. “It ranges from $25 to $110 for a 10-week session, which includes a T-shirt, race bib, all program materials and a water bottle. We will never turn a girl away for inability to pay, though.”
What? Girls on the Run
Why? A program that creatively incorporates games and activities with life-changing experiences, ending with celebratory 5K running events
Who? Girls in third through fifth grade
Where? Allen County
When? Spring session starts in mid-March (now registering)
Interested? Contact Hillary Knipstein by emailing her at Hillary.firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteers are needed to come out during February for the spring session, which starts in mid-March. Donors are also very much appreciated. For more information on the organization and how others can help, check the website.
GOTR is a place, “where girls learn that they CAN. No limits. No constraints. Only opportunities to be remarkable,” according to the website.