2015 Grantee Partners

Girls on the Run:  Boosting girls self-esteem through physical activity

Girls on the Run (GOTR) is an empowerment and prevention after-school program for 8-11 year-old girls intended to prepare them for a lifetime of achievement. The evidence-based curriculum is a unique combination of character building activities and increasing physical activity to address girls’ development and attitudinal issues related to self-esteem and healthy living. During the 10-week program, girls engage in values clarification, explore ways to improve peer and family relationships, begin to think of themselves as a part of a larger community and world, and increase their level of physical activity. Through twice a week meetings, the 20 one-hour sessions teach life skills through group processing, running games and workouts and is taught by certified Girls on the Run coaches. Lessons provide girls with the tools to make positive decisions and to avoid risky adolescent behaviors, such as substance/alcohol use, eating disorders, early onset of sexual activity, sedentary lifestyle, depression, suicide attempts and confrontations with the juvenile justice system. As part of the program, girls choose and conduct a group community service project. The program concludes with the opportunity to participate in a 5K walk/run. With the support of The Women's Fund, the GOTR program was offered at nine equity-plus elementary school and community-based sites serving underprivileged neighborhoods.  A total of 176 low-income girls were able to participate in Girls on the Run as the result of this grant.  The pre/post surveys reflect that over 80% of participants regard themselves in a much more positive light after participating in Girls on the Run for ten weeks.  The story below shows the impact of the program on one of the participants.  

Traci's Story

Traci had heard about Girls on the Run from her friends at church but she was not able to participate because her school did not offer the program.  In the fall of 2012, a flyer about the program was sent home in her Wednesday packet and she begged her father to sign her up.  He was not sure why Traci was so excited; she is overweight, she has a slight limp because of a birth defect, and she hates being outside. Furthermore, as a single dad, he did not have the resources to support her in the endeavor; he works two jobs and her only way home each day is the school bus.  Though he felt sure she would give up once he explained the obstacles,  Traci continued to plead with him.  "The girls in my Sunday School class had a blast doing it and they said that it even helped their family learn to eat better.  I want to make friends, I want to be liked, and you need to lose weight.  I can help you, Daddy, if you let me do Girls on the Run."  Her father explained that he did not have the funds to enroll her, nor did he know how he would get her home after practice two days each week.  Over the next couple of days, Traci talked to her teacher at school and found out that scholarships were available to girls in need of financial support.  Her teacher called the GOTR office and asked if Traci would qualify.  She was told that, even though her school had not initially been designated as a subsidized site, her enrollment fee could be waived.  Traci was very excited but was still stumped by how she would get home from practice.  She looked into city bus routes but none was available at the time she needed a ride.  On Sunday, she mentioned to her friends at church that she wanted to participate but did not have a way home.  One of the other girls' mother volunteered to swing by and get her on her way home from work, since she drove right by the school everyday.  She shared this with Traci's father first and let him be the one to tell Traci the good news.  Traci enrolled in the program and she blossomed.  By week four, she had her father out walking with her in the evenings before bath time.  On Sundays, while her father counted the offering at the church, she and her friends walked around the parking lot and shared their stories about the week's lesson plan, as presented at their different schools.  Traci was learning so much from her coach and from her friends that she actually became a bit sad as the season came to a close.  She was still not able to run a full three miles because of her physical disability but she sure was getting close. And she had gained 11 new friends that she loved dearly.  Her father had lost about four pounds and she wanted him to lose more.  On race day, she was paired with a volunteer from the Junior League to be her running buddy.  Her father was scheduled to work so he dropped her off early that morning and wished her well. To Traci's surprise, as she rounded the first curve in the race, there stood her father with a big sign that read, "Run hard, Traci, I am so proud of you!"  She was thrilled and became even more so when he passed off the sign to someone standing along the road with him and he joined in to run beside her.  She became very fatigued just after completing about 85% of the race but her father picked her up, put her on his back, and they finished the race together!  It was a tremendous experience for everyone involved.  And there, at the finish line, were her friends and their mothers, holding the sign that her father had made for her. The two of them celebrated the day with lunch and cookies from Subway.  They continued walking together through the weeks that followed and plan to try another 5K again in the spring.  Traci is determined to finish on her own next time but her father is just happy to do whatever it takes to cross the finish line together. 

Click here to learn more about the Girls on the Run Program in Forsyth County.
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