Imagine a program dedicated to bringing the joy of running to young girls and teaching life skills along the way. Sounds like a great cause, right? Newsflash: it exists. It’s called Girls on the Run. There are local chapters in Chester and Montgomery counties, but none in Philadelphia—yet. That’s where Kate Freed comes in.
Freed, a Philly resident and eight-time marathoner, is on a mission to start a Girls on the Run chapter in the city. She’s leading the steering committee, a motivated group of women who are dedicated to bringing the program to Philly. I caught up with her to find out more about the program, why Philly needs one, and how Be Well readers can help make it a reality.
What is Girls On The Run?
Girls On The Run is a national non-profit organization for girls from third to fifth grade that teaches life skills through dynamic conversation-based lessons and running activities. It was founded in 1996 with a mission to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. The curriculum is offered during after-school programs that meet twice a week in teams of 15 girls. Certified Girls on the Run coaches are volunteers from the community that offer their time during this 12-week season.
So you’re looking for volunteers! How can interested people get involved?
Once our Philadelphia Girls on the Run council is established, the rate at which we grow is largely dependent upon the amount of women in the community willing to volunteer as coaches. Both head and assistant coaches will be needed to volunteer two 90-minute sessions per week for a 12-week season at their program site which could be an elementary school or recreation center. These volunteer coaches will help with participant registration, organization, and delivery of the Girls on the Run curriculum.
What does the curriculum entail?
It has three parts: getting girls to understand themselves, valuing teamwork, and understanding how they can interact with and influence the world. At each season’s conclusion, the girls complete a 5K run, an incredible accomplishment at that age—or any age! In some cities, this is a huge event involving many people from the community who come to participate and support the girls. Last year, Girls on the Run included over 80,000 participants in communities throughout the country. We’re hoping to help increase this number by bringing this amazing program to Philly.
Why does Philadelphia need a Girls on the Run Program?
With continued cuts in after school programs due to Philadelphia’s budget constraints, it’s our responsibility as a community to proactively provide as much guidance to our youth as we can outside of the classroom. Considering the alarming reality of Philadelphia’s childhood obesity rates, high school graduation rates, and teen birth rates, it is critical for us to come together to offer as many positive and effective activities as we can.
But what about PE class and recess? Girls can be active there. Why is this program unique?
Girls on the Run is unique in the sense that it specifically targets girls between third and fifth grade at this crucial point in their lives. They’re beginning to learn who they are as individuals and how they can proactively create the life they want for themselves. Providing a positive influence for girls at this age can help establish the confidence and resilience they’ll need as they navigate their way into adulthood. One of the reasons I love Philadelphia is because of its potential. If we want to improve our city’s future, we have to start with our youth.
What is the state of the program now?
We’re currently in the process of completing our application with Girls on the Run International, which involves creating a strategic plan, growth strategy, and understanding the needs of Philadelphia’s girls. Upon approval, we hope to establish ourselves as an independent Girls on the Run council and a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We hope to kick-off our first season in Philadelphia in the spring of 2013.
You have a fundraising webpage. How much money do you need to raise and for what?
We must raise the first $1,500 increment of the total $7,500 registration fee required by Girls on the Run International by September. This registration fee will provide us with the right to deliver the Girls on the Run curriculum in Philadelphia County, use their coaching materials, attend the coach training, and more. Within our first week of fundraising, we have raised over $500!
Why is bringing GOTR to Philly so important to you?
Since I’ve been running over the past twenty years, the one constant in my life has been my ability to run. Wherever I live, no matter how much life changes, I can always rely on the fact that I can grab my sneakers and go.
Sharing the gift of running with girls at such a young age can provide them with not only exercise, but also with a sense of accomplishment, work ethic, confidence, healthy competition, and the foundation on which they can create a healthy lifestyle for themselves. Even though each season only lasts for 12 weeks, the girls can remember the lessons taught within the curriculum as well as the lifelong joy of running as they grow into strong, confident women.