For some grade school girls, learning to be healthy and confident comes with significant obstacles. However, the group Girls on the Run is trying to help get girls over those hurdles.
The organization seeks to inspire and educate third through eighth grade girls through lessons, on such topics as: healthy eating, keeping an active lifestyle, how to deal with bullying and creating a positive body image. In addition to the curriculum and group lessons, Girls on the Run also gets girls across the finish line – literally, by training for a 5K run.
"Especially for those girls, it's so important for them to learn about what it means to take care of their bodies - both physically and mentally," says Tina Jones, executive director of Milwaukee Girls on the Run. "What it means to be a good teammate, what it means to cheer somebody on...all of those things that these girls may not be learning at a younger age and should be to really help them in their later years."
The Milwaukee organization has seen tremendous growth since it started in 2007. Now, over 1,000 girls participate in program at school and at community centers.
Many girls who often would not have the chance to participate now are able, Jones says, and benefit greatly from it. "Often times we've got girls that don't have that positive role model at home," she explains. "So when they get a chance to get all the attention that they get from their coaches, it can make such a difference in their lives."
For Jones, the transformation she sees among the girls is the most rewarding experience. "By the end of the ten weeks, you start to see the brightness in their eyes and the smile on their faces. And when they cross that finish line, holy cow – it just stops you in your tracks," she says.
Girls on the Run with be hosting a Limitless Potential breakfast with Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon on May 18th. For more information on the event, or how to get involved with the organization, there are plenty of options on their website.