Making New Strides Towards Empowering Our Girls

This spring, my daughter, received an invitation to participate in her school's Girls on the Run (GOTR) program. Despite my background in women's empowerment, I had never heard of GOTR. After speaking with the coach, I had brief chat with my daughter and we jointly made the decision to give the program a shot.

Girls on the Run is a non-profit organization with about 200 councils across the U.S. and Canada. Over 10 to 12 weeks, councils help organize teams of girls in 3rd through 8th grades to train for and complete a 5K run (not a race). Girls are guided and encouraged to find their own pace - one that is challenging but not overwhelming. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.

Girls meet with a volunteer coach twice a week to explore topics such as making healthy choices, learning to stand up for themselves and the importance of giving back to the community.

"In today's world I think crafting empowered girls is such a privilege. GOTR has a really well considered and well tested program that builds both inner strength and wellness through running." said Daphne Markcrow, coach of Maple Street School's GOTR team. " The 5K is the celebration of their hard work."

meridith dennes
(2016 GOTR Maple Street School Team, Photo Credit: Katie Cyr)

Finally, after 10-weeks of physical and mental training, Saturday was the big run. My daughter was both excited and nervous. Vermont is not known for its flats and 5K in the hills can be tough even on experienced athletes. The mood at the 5K was energizing and positive. Over 500 girls from Southern Vermont showed up to accomplish the goal of completing the run to the best of their ability. Participants sprayed their hair with vibrant colors, donned tutus and superhero capes and stuck Girls on the Run temporary tattoos on their faces. The girls' were ready.

And then they were off. Spectators lined the streets with cowbells and shouted out words of encouragement to all runners and walkers. "You can do it." "You got this." "You're almost there." The coaches were incredibly supportive. Parents ran with their children. Parents ran with other peoples' children. It was awesome. It was empowering.

Most importantly, I asked my daughter how she felt at the end of the run and she said "Mom, I am really proud of myself, I did it." I asked her to write down how she felt that day so she could go back to it and remember her accomplishment. She loved the idea.

Girls on the Run will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2017. For more information about Girls on the Run, visit: www.gotr.org.