"Girls on the Run" getting ready to welcome new group

NOW: “Girls on the Run“ getting ready to welcome new group

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Local non-profit organization Girls on the Run, is on a mission to inspire young girls in everyday life, and is getting ready for the 2022 season. Girls on the Run is a council of mentors who are dedicated to letting every girl know their worth and how special they are, all throughout Michiana. It currently provides programming in St. Joseph, Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko and Marshall counties.

This is an international organization, with a network of over 200 councils across all 50 states and the District of Colombia. It was established in Michiana 12 years ago in 2010, and since the beginning, it has served up to around 2,000 girls.

It’s the only after-school program of its kind! The non-profit has two different groups, one is made up of 3rd-5th graders and the other is for 6th-8th graders. Mentors push out their empowering mission, using a fun and interactive curriculum that integrates running. The girls will be welcomed back in March, but mentors are already getting to work with warming up and getting prepped for a season of teaching every girl that they have the potential to do anything they set their minds to.

“It allows girls to gain some tools for building confidence, for learning more about how to manage their emotions and talk to others in their age peer group as well as at home you know with their parents or teachers. It helps them understand who they are as they are, and helps them know that they are wonderful, beautiful as they are and are allowed to express themselves and be who they want to be,” Girls on the Run Communications Manager Rochelle Day said.

Jen Smoker has been involved with girls on the run for the past 12 years, being apart of the board itself as well as a coach. Smoker also wears a third hat, as a parent! One of Smoker’s daughters previously participated in the organization, and she has two other girls who are currently enrolled for the 2022 season. She says she loves how this group has built up and empowered not just her own kids, but every girl it serves. The goal is to help them be healthy, joyful and ultimately their best selves.

“I just really want to pour into these girls. I think there are so many girls from so many different backgrounds that don’t get to hear things like you matter, you have a voice, you’re important and I think girls on the run does just that for girls so know I played a small part in that, and possibly helping them gain confidence, maybe changing lifestyles, changing friendships, it’s really incredible to think about,” Smoker said.

If you are a parent, you probably know those pre-teen years can be especially challenging for girls. Experts say that’s because they face unique social pressures and conflicting messages about how and who they should be. Stressors related to COVID-19 have undeniably affected them as well, due to social isolation, anxiety and limited activities. For these reasons, organizers believe this program is more important now than ever before. The turnout has stayed strong through the pandemic though, despite the ongoing obstacles the crisis keeps throwing our way.

“The pandemic has affected us all. There’s been no exclusion. So, having girls now more than ever be in a safe place to just talk about not only what they’re dealing with at school but what they’ve had to deal with over the last year or two,” Day said. “Its just really important because it might help them through the process better than what they might get at home or not get at all without that mental and social support.”

If you would like to sign your daughter up to participate in Girl on the Run, you can click here to register.

If you would like to become a volunteer, you can click here to learn more.

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