Sunday, October 8, 2017

Month 10: Girls on the Run of Northern Arizona

We are in double-digit months now. Time flies when you’re having fun? Ok, maybe not, but while DJT is tweeting about the NFL, butchering the pronunciation of Puerto Rico, playing whack-a-mole with his White House staff, restricting birth control coverage, and generally not doing anything to help America, there are still good people doing very good work out there. So let’s try and focus on that for just a moment or two, and reduce the chaos to a quiet buzz in the back of our minds.

Haven Montessori girls at morning practice
For Month 10, Jacki and I chose Girls on the Run of Northern Arizona (there are GOTR organizations in almost every community....if you aren't in Flagstaff you can surely find one). This is an organization near and dear to my heart, as my daughter participated for three years, and I’ve known dozens of girls in our community who have benefited from the fabulously positive messages of this program.

Jacki and I had the opportunity to correspond with Marney Babbitt, Council Director for GOTR N. Arizona.  According to Marney, “Girls on the Run inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. Girls on the Run is a physical activity-based positive youth development (PA-PYD) program that is designed to enhance girls’ social, psychological and physical skills and behaviors to successfully navigate life experiences. The program’s intentional curriculum (for girls in 3rd-5th and 6th-8th grades) places an emphasis on developing competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and contribution in young girls through lessons that incorporate running and other physical activities. The life skills curriculum is delivered by caring and competent coaches who are highly trained. The impact of the Girls on the Run program is fully dependent on 108 volunteer coaches who deliver the program each fall throughout Northern Arizona.”

I don’t know what you were like as a preteen, but my name may as well have been "Awkward Insecure Hot Mess Schaefer."  Convinced that I was ugly, fat, and the ultimate nerd loser (complete with glasses and probably the worst hair and clothes known to the 1980s), I stumbled through those awkward years in complete survival mode. How I wish I had had a program like this when I was in 5th or 6th grade and beginning to navigate the world of cliques, hormones and the pitfalls of middle school.  Having a 6th grade daughter now, I worry constantly about the social pressures and negative body image messages that pummel her on a daily basis.  Programs like GOTR help to combat this with lessons of girl power and positivity.

"She believed she could... so she did!"
For 2017, GOTR is experiencing its largest season ever with 257 girls (203 of who receive financial aid), who comprise 20 teams at 25 schools throughout Northern Arizona. GOTR seeks to teach life skills, promote healthy habits and improve self-esteem. The 8-13 year old age group is particularly vulnerable, so GOTR focus on them to increase self-confidence and encourage healthy peer relationships during such a tumultuous time. Marney explains that Girls on the Run seeks to “ensure that every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.”

GOTR is funded by individual donors, grants and sponsors. They rely heavily on community support to insure access for all girls who wish to participate regardless of income. Data reveal extremely positive outcomes for girls who participate, including increases in confidence, connection, self-esteem, positive body image, managing emotions, helping others, and being intentional with decisions.  

This all sounds pretty extraordinary, doesn’t it? These days we need organizations like GOTR more than ever as we seek to inspire confidence in young girls that will empower them to become community leaders, empathetic friends, and powerful voices for the future.

My coworker, Jen Ernst and I, visited a Haven Montessori Girls on the Run practice week before last. We cheered the girls on as they completed one last lap around Guadalupe Park (some ran, some walked, some did a little dance along the way).  All had huge smiles on their faces as they passed us and slapped our outstretched hands for a High-5. We told them how proud we are of them, and how they can do anything they want to in life with determination and hard work. Jen and I fought back tears as we walked back to our office and heard the seminal GOTR chant, “Girls on the Run is sooooo much fun!” 

How can you get in on the fun?  

The 10th Annual Girls on the Run Celebratory 5K is Saturday November 11, 2017 at Ft. Tuthill. The celebratory 5k is an important part of the GOTR experience. The magical event gives the girls a tangible sense of achievement; they set a goal and they reach it! Our 5K is an un-timed fun run open to all: https://www.gotrna.org/5K

Businesses can sponsor the 5K or a girl in the program: https://www.gotrna.org/Partner

Females (18+ who can submit a background check) can complete the race with a girl as her “Running Buddy:" https://www.raceplanner.com/register/index/5KRB2017

If you’d like to bring Girls on the Run to your school in 2018 or coach in 2018, let us know here: https://www.raceplanner.com/siteapplication/signup/site-interest

Give the gift of confidence. Every donation to Girls on the Run of Northern Arizona allows more girls to experience the power of our program, activate their limitless potential and boldly pursue their dreams: https://www.gotrna.org/Donate

Follow GOTR on Facebook to stay up to date on all of their upcoming events!

Thank you sincerely to Marney and all of the wonderful volunteers who make GOTR possible in our community!