On May 22, 2014, Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo was swarmed by thousands of little girls, grades 3 to 5, plus friends, family and coaches. Participants ran, jogged, walked, and skipped 3.1 miles to reach a milestone that they worked so hard to accomplish. Girls on the Run is a 501(c)3 that currently serves over 130,000 girls across 200+ cities in North America each year, and the Greater Kalamazoo affiliate is one of the top 10 largest programs in the country. With its mission to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively incorporates running. The program has made a huge impact not only for the girls registered, but for the community as a whole.
Some may think that with a name like, ‘Girls on the Run,’ that the program is focused solely on running, but it’s much more than that. Starting in March, the girls meet twice a week with their small teams of 8-15 girls, and go through a curriculum, which is taught by certified coaches. Through their 20-lesson curriculum, the girls learn lessons about topics such as positive body image, bullying, and healthy eating, amongst others. Then when the lesson is done for the day, the girls go out with their coaches and prepare for their program conclusive 5K. The running portion is meant to inspire and motivate the girls, and to teach them to work towards a common goal with their team.
On the day of the race, the girls can be seen lined up to get their hair done (spray paint and all!), practicing cheers with their teammates, and having a fun time. Smiles are plastered on everyone’s faces – the girls, the coaches, the volunteers, and anyone who is along the 5K route. The program fosters the holistic growth of these girls and the future of Kalamazoo; the 5K is a celebration of the community’s youth and their development.
When the girls line up at the starting, filled with excitement, spectators can’t help but catch the contagious spirit of the day. Whether they run or walk, each girl crosses the finish line with their head held high, knowing that they achieved their goal with the community surrounding them in immense support. It’s a day of happiness and a day that anyone involved will surely not forget.
Have you participated in similar programs in your community?