About 1,700 girls run in celebration of spring youth program
Rain clouds loomed, and most festivities were moved inside the Virginia Wesleyan University student center. The Girls on the Run Family 5K event, however, lived up to its theme “Shine Bright” on May 20.
As the crowd enjoyed the pre-run activities, including hula-hooping and face-painting, the sun appeared and remained bright. Executive Director Ellen Carver mentioned the slightly wet course, and welcomed everyone with enthusiasm.
“We teach girls awesome life lessons!” she yelled just before the countdown began. About 1,700 runners, more than half from Virginia Beach, crossed the finish line to celebrate the successful completion of the spring youth development program by girls in more than 100 local schools.
Sisters Kehely and Madison Cox, and Sadie Strawn had great things to say about their Christopher Farms Elementary after-school Girls on the Run group.
“It’s fun and positive for girls,” said Kehely.
She came up with an idea during a group meeting: If someone says something negative, they say “rewind.” That means start again, and “always say something good,” the 10-year-old said.
Girls on the Run groups are led by trained volunteer coaches and meet twice a week after school in the fall and spring. Running games and discussions help teach life skills to third- through eighth-grade girls.
Genesis Jackson said her daughter McKenna, a College Park Elementary third-grader, has made new friends thanks to the organization, and “has definitely gained more confidence.”
Her coaches April Sanders, LaToya Shovely and Liz Jordan said the curriculum encourages girls to think positively about themselves. For example, they’ll write down any negative thoughts on paper, and put them inside a balloon, which is popped and the thoughts discarded.
The ultimate goal is to “help build a heathy girl, emotionally, socially and physically,” Sanders said.
Before the run, a cape ceremony was held to commend girls who raised $100 to financially help others with membership fees next year. More than 150 were draped in lime green silky capes and each ran a short distance toward a photo opportunity.
Some students from G.W. Carver Intermediate in Chesapeake had their fees paid last year but earned 13 capes this year. Their coaches Kelley Seitz and Marybeth Johnson beamed with pride. The girls collected coins, and some donated their birthday money to give back to others.
“They ran with it, literally,” Seitz said.
Ready and waiting after the run were representatives from The Dragas Companies. Vice-President of Sales and Marketing Sally Horvath had new running shoes for 50 girls selected from several Title 1 schools. She praised the self-esteem building organization that the company’s President and CEO Helen Dragas helped launch locally 12 years ago.
What began with 34 girls served by the organization has grown to more than 12,000. Horvath said she hopes the girls enjoy their new sneakers. “Hopefully it will inspire them to run all summer until the next season starts.”
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