As young girls grow and begin to face the world’s issues, they are often challenged to find outlets that will offer them positive support and foster the necessary levels of confidence needed to thrive. Girls on the Run (GOTR), an international organization that encourages girls by teaching life skills through running games, is a wonderful source of empowerment.
GOTR employs running to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness, and build confidence through accomplishment, with the ultimate goal of creating a world in which every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.
Established in 1996 in Charlotte, N.C., GOTR has grown into an entity of international status, with over a million young women participating. Locally in Fairfield County, GOTR became an affiliate of the New Canaan YMCA in 2010. Davie Cedela, council director of Girls on the Run Fairfield County and youth development director of the New Canaan YMCA, knew right away that the group had to become an affiliate of the New Canaan YMCA. “At the Y we provide so many programs that foster the development of our youth and the goals of Girls on the Run fit into what our organization does on a daily basis,” Cedela explains.
GOTR groups meet twice weekly for ten week sessions, where the girls, in either 3rd-5th grade or 6th-8th grade, work with specially certified coaches who teach life skills through fun, engaging lessons that celebrate the joy of movement.
This specialized curriculum teaches girls a better understanding of themselves, how to value relationships and teamwork, and an exploration of how they connect with and shape the world at large. Over the course of the program, each team creates and executes a community service project, allowing the girls to experience the value of serving others. The season concludes with a 5k event, where the girls, along with their running buddies, experience the thrill of goal setting and achievement.
Mary Bentley, council coordinator, explains why she believes GOTR is such a valuable experience: “Through our program, we inspire girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident. Our girls find value in our program through our lessons, which are facilitated by an army of amazing volunteers. We cover timely topics such as dealing with bullies, choosing our friends, making healthy decisions, and service to community, to name a few. To date, our council has served over 1300 girls. As a former adolescent girl, and the mother of a daughter, I could not sign up to participate quickly enough.”
Girls on the Run is currently offered at the following elementary schools:
Bridgeport: New Beginnings Family Academy
Darien: Pear Tree Point, Tokeneke, Royle, Hindley, Ox Ridge, Holmes
Easton: Samuel Staples Elementary
Fairfield: Osborn Hill, Stratfield, Burr, Dwight, Mill Hill, Holland Hill
New Canaan: New Canaan YMCA (Girls on the Run Affiliate), St. Aloysius, East Elementary, New Canaan Country School
Newtown: Resiliency Center of Newtown
Norwalk: Columbus Magnet School, Rowayton Elementary
Redding: Redding Elementary
Ridgefield: Ridgebury Elementary, Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield
Stamford: Toquam Magnet School. Northeast Elementary
Westport: Westport Weston Family YMCA
For more information, visit girlsontherun.org.