On Saturday, September 13th at Beach RAID we are thrilled to be partnering up with Girls on the Run Maine! Girls on the Run is a non-profit nationwide organization inspiring girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running! We caught up with the program director, Staci Olson, and she gave us all the details on this great organization!
What is Girls on the Run?
Girls On The Run is a transformational physical activity based positive youth development program for girls in 3rd-5th grade. We teach life skills through dynamic interactive lessons and running games. The ten week after school program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5k running event.
What is the goal of your program?
The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness. Girls on the Run is an International organization with councils across the US and Canada. In 2013, close to 150,000 girls participated in the program.
When did it all begin?
Girls on the Run-Maine began in the Fall of 2012 and in just 4 seasons, our council has gone from serving 37 girls to 315. There has been an overwhelming response to the program, and more sites are being added each season. GOTR-ME plans to grow in a sustainable way, with the goal of serving 1300 girls throughout the state by 2016.
What is your involvement with Girls on the Run?
I first learned about Girls on the Run in 2011 when a steering committee was formed to help bring Girls on the Run to Maine. At that time, Maine was one of four states that did not have a Girls on the Run council and this group of volunteers worked hard to change that and get it started. I grew up participating in sports and I have a Master’s Degree in School Counseling where I focused my studies on self-esteem and empowerment of young girls, so for me, this was a dream organization to work for.
I began volunteering with GOTR as a Race Director for a 5k fundraiser, the Hot ChocoTrot, that we held in October of 2012, to help spread the word about our new council and then soon after that was hired on in the role of Program Director. My job is to help people start GOTR sites in their communities, to recruit and train coaches to administer the program and then to support them throughout the season. We run both a Fall and a Spring season and at the end of each one we host a Celebratory 5k to celebrate the girl’s accomplishments. I take on the role of Race Director for those 5k events and it is always such a special day to watch the girls come together with their teammates and family members and to see them reach their goal of completing a 5k.
What do girls get from participating in Girls on the Run?
GOTR is a unique opportunity for girls because it combines both physical activity with life lessons that encourage positive youth development. The lessons that we touch on throughout the ten week curriculum really give the girls the opportunity to have discussions about topics that are relevant to their lives as 8-11 year old girls. We focus on subjects such as setting goals, positive self talk, cooperation, healthy friendships, the concept of “real beauty,” and how to make a positive impact in their community. After completing the GOTR program, these girls then have these tools to go out and navigate their worlds with a sense of confidence and empowerment. As one of our girls wrote when asked what she learned at GOTR she replied, “I learned that I am a smart, beautiful, confident, awesome girl!” That pretty much says it all. What I love about GOTR is that it reaches girls of all interests and all athletic abilities. We have some girls who could run a 5k on the first day of practice and some girls who have never ran for more than a few minutes. All of those girls are coming together to share in an experience where they can be a part of a team but also get a feeling of individual accomplishment – such an amazing thing to experience at such a young age.
How is the program organized?
Each team is led by 3 or 4 volunteer coaches and these coaches work hard to create a fun and safe environment where the girls can comfortably share their thoughts and learn from each other. Our coaches span a large age range and bring with them a variety of backgrounds – some are teachers, some are parents, some are community members, some are runners and some aren’t, but what unites them all is an interest in creating a positive experience for these girls. I feel so fortunate to work with such an amazing group of volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to GOTR.
It has been fascinating for me personally to watch this small non profit organization grow so rapidly. Though the program is currently just in Southern Maine, we are working hard to continue to grow to more communities throughout the state and to give more kids the opportunity to become a GOTR girl. We are also working on multiple fundraising campaigns to help build our Scholarship Fund to help make sure that the program is available for all girls who want to participate.