Girls on the Run of Coastal Georgia is gearing up for 2018, which will include the program’s regular spring season and summer day camps.
Girls on the Run is a physical activity-based, youth development program that teaches key skills to girls in grades 3-8 through discussions and games that integrate running. Girls on the Run of Coastal Georgia has been serving Chatham, Bryan, Effingham and Liberty counties since 1996. The program started with 30 girls in four sites and now serves over 1,000 girls in 30 sites.
According to a Girls on the Run press release, research, program implementation and evaluation went into designing a program that addresses the challenges that girls typically encounter during adolescence.
The program has proven to be rewarding for girls, families, coaches and educators, according to Rebecca Mock, principal of Joseph Martin Elementary in Hinesville.
"We had 39 girls in the program in the fall, and we love the results we are seeing in our girls," she said. "We had a number of coaches from our teaching staff who got as much out of it as the girls. Feedback from parents has been great, and I would love to see more girls from Liberty County being served by this outstanding program."
One of Mock’s teachers who served as a coach is Sarah Trawick, who recieved the United Way volunteer of the year award.
"From a teacher’s perspective, I found the experience to be very rewarding," Trawick said. "Girls on the Run is not a graded activity, and so there is no pressure. Girls open up and are receptive to what is being offered. To me, the most important lesson is avoiding negative self-talk. The program teaches positivity in all interactions and gives the girls the tools to deal with negative emotions.
"We all deal with people who are not nice throughout our lives. Girls on the Run teaches how to be nice to yourself and to others, while still standing up for yourself. I can’t tell you how much I love this program. I recently had two fifth-graders tell me they used Girls on the Run lessons to manage difficult situations. I have seen how these girls take the lessons back home and to school."
Liberty County native Mea Wilson, parent of a 9-year-old in the Joseph Martin Elementary program, has a similar take.
"My daughter, who has ADHD and low self-esteem, blossomed in Girls on the Run. She worked hard to keep up her grades so she could stay in the program," Wilson said. "It has turned her around academically and has given her the desire to be healthy and strong. She refers to her Girls on the Run team members as ‘sisters’ and the program has been a life-changer and motivator for my child and my family."
Girls on the Run has also expanded to include middle school girls through Heart and Soul, a program dedicated to the needs of adolescent girls. Heart and Soul creates a structured space for girls to learn about themselves, explore ideas, cultivate empathy, strengthen connections and develop life skills.
The program meets after school twice a week for 10 weeks, for a total of 30 hours of programming. The programs address bullying, gossiping, peer pressure, body image and negative media messages, among other challenges faced by girls. At the end of the session, the girls participate in a Girls on the Run 5K.
The cost of the 30-hour program is $175 and includes supplies and materials, snacks, medal and T-shirt. Girls on the Run will also provide 5K medals to siblings who run with participants.
Scholarships are available and no girl has ever been turned away, organizers said, estimating that 60 percent of participants are on financial aid. The scholarships are underwritten by individuals, businesses, organizations and grants. Shoes for girls who can’t afford them are provided by national Girls on the Run partner, Asics.
The spring 2018 program starts Feb. 5 and ends in early May. The 5K celebrating the end of the season will be April 28 on the campus of Savannah State University. Community runners can register for $25 by April 26 or $35 $35 the morning of the event.
"A core value of our organization is inclusion and access. We serve girls from all walks of life and from all socioeconomic backgrounds, shapes and sizes," said Maria Center, the newly-appointed executive director of Girls of the Run-Coastal Georgia. "When you are at the finish line, you will see kids from private schools and Title 1 schools. You will see urban kids, rural kids, kids using walkers. We celebrate diversity and what makes each child unique and special.
"It’s a moving experience to be at that finish line and to see the joy on each child’s face as they cross to be given their medal. And you also see pride in the faces of family members. I would encourage anyone who cares about developing leadership and character in girls to get involved with Girls on the Run, these kids are the future."
Girls on the Run of Coastal Georgia is currently accepting new sites to host teams for the spring season and provide program opportunities to more girls. Each site must have a volunteer site liaison, a safe space for physical activity and be able to provide both outdoor and indoor meeting locations. Both schools and non-school sites are encouraged to find out how to host Girls on the Run.
Girls on the Run will also offer week-long summer day camps, Camp GOTR: Girls Have Heart, for rising third- through fifth-graders. The five-day camps, is also looking for host sites. They run 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. The fee is $100 and includes all materials and supplies, snacks and T-shirt. Financial aid is available.
For information on the season, day camp or on becoming a coach or volunteering, contact Center at email@example.com or 912-349-1528. Additional information can be found at www.girlsontherun-ga.org.