Margo’s motivation

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If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. For 9-year-old Margo, it felt like many of her doors were closing. A naturally athletic girl from the start, she tried every sport and found a love in gymnastics. But after getting diagnosed with epilepsy a year prior, things got complicated. School activities became difficult, and a series of seizures and uncertainty of what was to come proved to be too dangerous to let Margo continue gymnastics.

While Margo was unable to get clearance from her doctor for many other sports, Girls on the Run became her activity of choice. Margo’s older sister, now in high school, did GOTR in third grade, and Margo had previously done the Lil’ Spark Sprints at the end-of-season 5k. She was excited to have a new outlet, but getting started was a struggle. Margo blamed her body for letting her down, regularly saying “I hate my body. I wish I could get another one.”

To help inspire Margo, her coach found her a running buddy and Margo started to track her progress over the course of the season. With GOTR lessons and practice twice a week, Margo was able to create bonds with other girls and learn about what she was capable of when she believed in herself and worked hard. Margo trained with her running buddy and made her own personal goals as she went through the program. With each mile, Margo improved her endurance and speed, and it wasn’t long before Margo’s outlook and attitude started to change for the better.

Come 5k Day, Margo was prepared to win. Not even the cloudy weather could bring her down! She had her sights set on first place, but her mother reminded her that whether it was first place or last place, it didn’t matter. “Run it for you,” she told Margo. After everything Margo had faced up until this point, it was important to finish the run and celebrate Margo’s bravery and perseverance.

5…4…3…2…1…. GO! Margo bolted the second the buzzer went off. She was eager to prove that she could do what she set out to accomplish. Not even half an hour later, Margo finished the 5k – as the first runner to cross the finish line! Margo felt invincible.

Beyond the finish line, Margo continued running until she reached her sister. They hugged and jumped together for her victory. Margo was overwhelmed with happiness, cheering, “I did it with this body!” It was a truly wonderful moment for Margo and her family to see Margo with her GOTR medal, and to read the inscription on the back that read:

“I have the power to believe in myself. To stand up for who I am. To say ‘yes’  to a challenge. To cheer on new friends. TO GROW UP STRONG”.

Margo’s support system and GOTR gave her the tools to cross the finish line, but Margo made her dream come true all on her own. Margo’s mother attributes her success to the fact that she “runs with her heart.” Margo found a home in GOTR, one that she says she looks forward to coming back to each new season.

Girls like Margo show us that when things feel difficult or even impossible, you can succeed despite the odds. For Margo, controlling the outcome is her way of succeeding, her mother says, and we believe Margo is a winner in every right.

Running took Margo to the top. Where will running take you? #RunningTakesMe

Superheroes stand up for what’s right

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by Sophia D.

Who am I? I am a superstar and a rock star. I am amazing, powerful, and awesome. I am strong and healthy. I am beautiful, on the inside and out. I am a princess who can grow up to be anything in the world if I set my mind to it.

Girls on the Run taught me these important and inspiring words along with so much more. For me, Girls on the Run isn’t just an exercise group. It’s not just a way to have a reason to boast about running a 5k. Even though Girls on the Run improved me physically, it also supported me mentally and emotionally.

At my school, girls are eligible to sign up and attend our school’s Girls on the Run program. In the autumn and spring, our team of third grade girls would meet every Monday and Wednesday in Coach Nader’s room. We would have a quick and healthy snack, and then discuss our daily lesson.

Coach Nader always taught us important life lessons. These lessons would help us interact sociably with our friends, family, and peers. Take for example, the toothpaste lesson. Coach taught us that words and actions are like toothpaste. When you squeeze the tube of toothpaste, the toothpaste obviously squirts out. However, it is impossible to put the toothpaste back into the tube. This is just like what we say or do to other people. If we say or do something mean or cruel to a peer, we can never take that action or insult back, no matter how hard we try.

In Girls on the Run, we were taught how to keep ourselves and the earth healthy. We learned about the types and amounts of food we need to eat daily to have a healthy diet. We also learned about how much sleep we need every night, how much screen time we should have each day, and the amount of water in a day is a healthy amount. To keep the earth and our environment healthy, we need to clean up and recycle garbage, not run water when we’re not using it, and to turn off the lights as we exit the room.

After we learned the lesson for the day, we would exercise by doing a running activity that corresponded with the lesson. For example, on the day we learned about healthy habits, each girl would run a lap or two and meet up with one of the coaches. She would then tell the coach one thing she does to keep herself healthy. The girl would then receive a paper clip and run another lap. The girls would string all of their paper clips together to form a chain. There were no winners to this game, because the girls respected everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

One of the major ideas we learned in Girls on the Run was how to stick up for ourselves if we or someone else was being bullied. Even though I had participated in Girls on the Run four years ago, this life lesson still comes up daily in my life.

One of the main reasons I joined Girls on the Run was because I knew that Coach Nader and the Girls on the Run program could help me deal with my bullies. I know I was only in third grade, but I was bullied and teased to a point where it distracted me from my schoolwork. I remember one day, I was being picked on and I decided to finally do something about it. I thought to myself, “What would Coach Nader tell me to do?” I remember her saying to always tell an adult, so that’s what I did. I raised my hand and spoke up for myself.

The lessons that Girls on the Run taught me still appear in my life. Whenever it is a nice day, I get off my phone or tablet and go ride my bike, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. I try to make healthy choices when I eat. I take care of the earth and myself. I am always kind to those around me, even if they do not show kindness in return. I still even deal with bullies today.

A while ago, my friend, who is a year younger than I am, was being picked on. He was being called rude names and being teased by other boys in my grade because of the clubs that he was in. I stood up for my friend and told the bullies to back off. I told my teacher, and the boys apologized for what they did. It felt good to do something about the bullies, especially because they were picking on one of my good friends. I was so happy with myself for defending my friend immediately, without hesitating. I feel like what I learned in Girls on the Run helped me to stand up right away. Everybody should have that sense that they did something right, and I believe that Girls on the Run can help young girls have that opportunity.

Even if these daily appearances of important values aren’t enough to pay for the time and devotion put into Girls on the Run, the race day definitely is. On race day, all the physical training we did finally comes to use. The team of girls come together to have an once-in-a-lifetime experience. The race isn’t just an average 5k. Girls on the Run teams from around the area come together to join hands and celebrate what they’ve learned from the past season.

One of the first words I would use to describe the race is empowering. Whenever we passed another Girl on the Run, we would give them strengthening words, such as, “Keep up the good work!” or “You can do it, keep going!” I remember that when I was slowing down, a Girl on the Run that I have never seen before ran past me shouting, “Keep going, superstar!” That simple phrase strengthened me so much, that I began to pick up my pace and run. The girl empowered me because Girls on the Run are all taught the same thing – show kindness towards others.

Before the race, the girls got to make little foam tiaras that they could wear during the 5k. The girls were able to put sparkles and sequins on the tiaras and write on them with markers. Coach Nader thought it would be nice if we put inspiring quotes on our tiaras. To this day, I still remember what I wrote. “I rock as me.” During the race, I truly did feel amazing, powerful, and strong. I felt like a princess or a superheroine while I was running.

Girls on the Run helped me realize my inner beauty in ways that I had never known were possible before. To this day, when I am being bullied, I feel unhealthy or inactive or just plain sad, I remember everything that Coach Nader taught me during my time in Girls on the Run. The empowering fire of Girls on the Run still blazes in my life, even though I participated four years ago. I will never forget the Girls on the Run cheer: “Girls on the Run is so much fun!”

Where have you been all my life?

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by Olivia G.

Ever have one of those “Where have you been all my life?” moments? I’ve had a few – Oreos, Nutella, my phone – but Girls on Track is different.

Girls on Track is not just a plain running club. It’s a fun after-school activity that I look forward to throughout the day. When the bell finally rings, I almost shout out loud! With Girls on Track, I never know what’s coming next, but every week I’m as excited as ever. It’s filled with fun activities that help us learn and make us laugh – even the exercising puts a smile on my face! It’s better than any club, in my opinion, because the lessons we learn aren’t about concepts we already know, like reusing, recycling, eat your veggies, etc. The lessons we learn with Girls on Track are real-life situations: how to survive through middle school and still enjoy it. The best thing about this program is one word: confidence. Girls on Track is all about it, from activities about confidence with yourself to games where you learn about confidence in real life situations. The difference between this program and others is that you can actually apply everything you learn to real life! Trust me, I’ve tried it!

One benefit of Girls on Track is friends. It’s helped me get to know the people in my grade better, some of which I only know by name because of shared classes. Now I don’t know those people only by name but by their personality and kindness. Even though I’m in sixth grade, I know tons of seventh and eighth graders who now say “hi” in the halls. I’ve even made a close friend who is a seventh grader, and we always have fun together at Girls on Track. I have made another friend who is in eighth grade, who I barely knew before. Through Girls on Track, I now know what a great friend she is, and we love to run and talk to each other. Thanks to Girls on Track, I have more friends, which for me equals more happiness, fun, and memories.

Decisions. We all use the concept in life, and this is how Girls on Track helps with it by teaching lessons that get you thinking about making choices. You have to decide which is the right thing to do, and many lessons have decision making woven inside. They may be disguised, but they help you in many ways. If your friend says to do something that you don’t know is right, you should stop and think for yourself. Many people in middle school come across that, and half the time, their decision is wrong. Girls on Track shows us the right thing to do, and it opens our eyes.

Another skill we learned was how to deal with negativity. This is HUGE in middle school, between bullies and mean comments. Girls on Track helps us defend ourselves without being mean about it. For example, if someone says “You’re ugly,” Girls on Track teaches you to say something like this: “I’m beautiful in my own way.” It’s true, and it doesn’t hurt anyone. Everybody’s dealt with mean comments and bad attitudes, but the real question is: Were you dealing with it the right way? With Girls on Track, you know you are.

Need a confidence boost? Girls on Track helps with that. Confidence is in every exercise and game we do, whether it’s in being confident in the decision you make or dealing with negativity. Even when people are negative to you, you have to be confident in yourself and not let the negativity get to you. Girls on Track helps build your confidence, so you can deal with the negativity and decisions every day.  

Girls on Track is fun, educational, and interactive. Hey, Girls on Track – where have you been all my life?

Girls on the Run: Not just a running club

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Girls on the Run is a great program that helps you get out of your shell. When I joined GOTR two years ago, I made new friends that were older and younger than me. I learned that I was part of a group of girls that were experiencing the same changes I was experiencing. The older girls had already gone through what I was going through, and the younger girls looked to me to explain what I was going through in the moment. We were all able to relate to each other. Being a girl in today’s world is not easy. Thankfully, there is a club like GOTR that has taught me and many other girls, the importance of speaking up for yourself and others, that your inside is way more valuable than your outside, and that when you run, you run at your own pace. I am so happy to have joined GOTR.

At first, I thought that it was going to be just an after school club, but it became so much more than that. The coaches work to help you make your inside strong enough to carry you to the finish line of a 5k race. My GOTR coached helped me realize that all girls go through the same things and that if we are kinder to each other, we can learn from the experiences that we share. This taught me that I was not alone and that I was not different from anyone else. It helped me get the courage to participate during the GOTR discussions. It helped me to open up and not be scared to share my thoughts and feelings.

GOTR has really helped me learn how to deal with self-image, bullying, and how girls sometimes try to be perfect even though no one ever really is. During one of the body image topics, we discussed how television and movies want girls to believe that beauty is on the outside. We looked at magazines of pretty girls that I used to want to look like. But when we saw how the pictures were photo shopped I realized that I wanted to look like someone that did not even exist! Even the pretty models wanted to look like the girls in the picture! I am so thankful for that discussion, because it helped me realize that everyone is beautiful in their own way and that no one should tell us what beautiful should look like. I remember being in third grade and already knowing that beauty is about how you feel about yourself and how you make others feel about themselves.

It is great to be part of a group where girls take care of each other and root for each other instead of competing, gossiping, or putting each other down. I will never forget that during my first year with GOTR, I was always the last one to finish going around my school. In the beginning, I felt embarrassed because I thought that the girls were frustrated that they always had to wait for me to finish.

One day, I was, once again, the slowest to finish. I had to go one more time around the school, and I did not think that I could do it. Everyone else had finished and were just waiting for me to complete my last lap. But, thankfully, right when I thought I did not have what it took to finish, two twin sisters, Julia and Claudia, started running with me. I was in the middle. They ran the entire last lap with me. They coached me to not give up and they kept telling me that they were right there with me. As we turned the corner, all the girls started chanting my name and then Julia’s and Claudia’s name. When I crossed the line, you would have thought that I had won a race! They were all high fiving me and congratulating me. I felt the girl power that GOTR stands for. It is true that we’re all running at our own pace, but we are also running one run.  It’s a team. When we all finish, the team finished.

This will be my last year with GOTR. It is now my turn to be a role model. It is my turn to encourage others. If there is ever one girl who might not make it to the last lap, I want her to know that I will be right there running the last lap with her. More than 160,000 kids stay home from school every day to avoid being bullied. At GOTR, I learned the, “I feel ______ when you ________ because________. I would like for you ______” statement. I learned that it is okay to stand up for myself and others. Girls aren’t supposed to be quiet and easygoing all the time. We have to stand up for ourselves and our friends when we are not being treated right. We have to be able to express ourselves and not avoid a problem that can be fixed by talking about it. One of the greatest lessons I learned was not to become your own worst bully! I learned that beauty comes from within. Beauty is not your hairstyle, make up, or clothes. Beauty is about kindness and the love that you have for yourself and others. GOTR taught me that every girl will go or has gone through all the same things and that I should not be hard on myself.

My coaches have taught me to think of my “Happy Pace” when I am running. The Happy Pace is your Happy Place. This is a good method to use if you feel so exhausted that you think that you might quit. I like to use this method to imagine that I am running towards my happiest destination. It helps me to enjoy running more. You can also use this method in any situation, not just running. You can find happiness in any situation. I learned that if I focus on the positive, that I can overcome any obstacle.

Girls on the Run has made a really big impact on my life. The club has made me realize things that I never knew before. I thought that GOTR was going to be just about running and learning about eating healthy, but it has been so much more than that. The first time I finished the 5k run, I felt extraordinary. I had never run for such a long time. I learned that nothing is impossible. I learned that as long as you build yourself strong in the inside, that you will always be strong on the outside. I will remember the methods, keep my friendships, and always believe in GIRL POWER!

When standing up means standing alone

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One morning, while glancing through Instagram, I saw this:

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“Due to recent events at school, I am deleting my account. I am sorry… it is for the better. I hope no one gets mad. Please don’t. And don’t ask about it. I will not reply. Don’t get mad. This is my final post. Best wishes and no hard feelings.”

The post was authored by my daughter, and to be honest, I was a bit surprised to see it. I follow her account, mostly to make sure she is posting appropriate things and that no one is bullying her or being inappropriate. She follows me back so she can keep an eye on me.

I knew there were some issues with a few girls at school, who, she said, were putting her in the middle, and demanding loyalty, and then just as they had turned on each other, they had turned on her.  Like so many girls at this age, she found herself on the outs; at first a prize to be won in a competition between two friends, and then discarded after they had tired of the game.

As my daughter and I talked through the specifics, I was reminded of a time in the 8th grade when I had suddenly and without warning, been cast out of my group of friends. So huddled under her covers, with the cat between us, I shared my story.

I stood at the edge of the farmer’s field facing Andrea. She had said she wanted to talk, but the presence of two 10th graders who I did not know made that seem unlikely. There was going to be a fight.

The week prior, I had gone from being Andrea’s best friend and confidant to being the girl on the outside of the circle. There are a lot of things that likely led to this particular moment, but in this situation, looking back, it had a lot to do with not going along with what the rest of the group was doing.

One day, as Andrea asserted herself as the Queen Bee of our group, my unwillingness to participate in the bad choices the group was making put me on the outs. But this isn’t a story about Andrea yelling at me on the dirt road. It isn’t about her throwing the first punch, and me having the presence of mind to duck, and then land a blow of my own. It isn’t about standing my ground and not showing them that I was hurt, while she picked herself out of the dirt, and yelled obscenities while walking away. This isn’t about the hot tears that streamed down my face as I walked home that day. This is not a story about me, or Andrea.

This is a story about Susan.

Susan was smartest person in our class. Neither popular nor unpopular, Susan was well-liked and respected by almost everyone at school, yet she was not a part of the group of girls with perfectly feathered hair or asymmetrical new wave cuts who got the attention of all the boys and the admiration of the girls. Susan was kind. She was funny without being the clown. She was poised. She was responsible, always finished her assignments, never late for class, and never participated in gossip.

Starting that January of 1985, I spent every single hour alone. I had been cast out and my behaviors prior to that had isolated me from everyone else. This was my bed, I had made it, and I had to lie in it. Every day I found my way to an empty lunch table. I sat down and opened a book, pretending to read.

One day Susan walked up with a smile and asked if she could join me. I mumbled yes. We had been in classes together for a year and a half, but had never talked to each other beyond group assignments. Susan ate lunch with me that day, and in the days after, her group of friends joined us at the table, and for the rest of the year I was not alone.

I wish I could say that we became lifelong best friends but that isn’t what happened. We started high school the next year, and I found my way to new friendships and a place in the Art Department while she pursued her interests in journalism and student government.  She went on to be our valedictorian, and represented our school in a citywide competition, editor of the yearbook, and student body president. I went on to get acrylic paint on my 501s, serve as Model United Nations Ambassador, did Mock Trial, and was a member of the Speech and Debate Team.

It is worth saying that the girls she led to that table 30 years ago are still her friends.

When we reconnected 20 years after graduation via Facebook, I thanked her and let her know how much she had meant to me, how hard that year had been, and how it was appreciated. You forget to thank people for kindness when the wounds are deep and fresh and you are all of 14 years old.

To her, it was nothing; it was just what you were supposed to do. She was simply being Susan. She saw a girl who was in pain, struggling, and she sat down next to her, and made me feel less alone. “Kindness is free,” she said, and so she had been kind.

She noticed my running, and said “You should do a marathon! I’ll do one with you!” And with her encouragement and a lot of naivety I registered for the 2010 Portland Marathon, which Susan ran in 4:15 and I completed well after that.

Susan is the girl we all hope to bring out in our own daughters; she is the one who shows up not only for her friends, but for girls without anyone. She stands up for what is right, and is comfortable in her own skin. She never acted dumb to please boys; she fulfilled her responsibilities and was a good daughter and friend.

Today she has a son of her own, loves to run marathons with her sister, makes jewelry and is a pharmacist. She roots for the University of Washington Huskies and the Seattle Seahawks. She notices the changing of the seasons in the Columbia River Gorge where she makes her home, travels often, and has a favorite donut shop. She is still a good friend, and a good daughter, and a great mother.

In 1985 Susan was everything I was not. And every so often, I am reminded of her kindness and deeply moved. Any kindness I offer is not so much a pay it forward, as it is, paying her back.

Small acts of kindness matter.

When I think about what I want for the girls we serve through our program, I think about planting the seed for kindness. I think about building a world where girls feel strong enough to stand up for themselves, even if it means being on the outs, and where girls support each other, and build each other, rather than tear each other down.

Part of being a Girl on the Run is living our values.  Part of being a Girl on the Run is sitting at the table with the girl who is alone. Part of being a Girl on the Run is making a difficult choice not to go along just to fit in.  Part of being a Girl on the Run is standing up for yourself, even when, and especially when doing so means possibly standing alone.

These are all lessons that we must learn as we grow up, and it is my hope that the safe place our coaches provide within the curriculum of Girls on the Run and Girls on Track will help this generation of girls navigate these situations with the grace of Susan, while avoiding the path Andrea and I took.

My daughter and I then turned the conversation to how she should approach school the next day. Did these girls who so casually cast her aside really value her as a person? And if not, were there any other girls at school who did?  What did it mean to be a friend?  What did she remember from her time at Girls on the Run?

When we finished our talk, my daughter decided she would rather be on the outs than continue to be the rope pulled in different directions by her two friends.  She would use her “I Feel’ “When You” statements to let the girls know how their behavior affected her, and she would make connections with a few of her other friends. Unlike me, I know her friendships with other girls are strong, going back to preschool, and I will encourage her to value those relationships and to call into question anyone in her life that wants to cut her off from others.

But she also decided to be like Susan. While at the same time using her voice to assert her personhood and independence, she would also offer the two whose behaviors had isolated her, her friendship.

I don’t know if she is really planning on deleting her account. It is still there, and I think that it is good for the two of us to have open communication about our lives and friendships at appropriate levels.  I get to see what she is interested in, and she gets to see me post pictures of what’s for dinner.

GOTRC featured on Divergent author, Veronica Roth’s blog

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So, I’m guessing maybe a few of our girls, coaches and parents have read one of Veronica Roth’s books–Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant or Four: A Divergent Collection. Scratch that, a few billion of you have probably read them. And if you haven’t, then you should. They are amazing.

Having said that, you can understand how excited we were when the the New York Times best-selling author recently reached out to Girls on the Run-Chicago, asking if she could include us as one of a handful of organizations being featured as part of her AbnegationDonation campaign. As stated on her blog, “the idea behind this is that if you’re anything like me, you want to help and get involved, but you’re not always sure how— and the more we know about what others are doing, the easier it is to join in.”

Click here to read the full Q&A with GOTRC Communications Manager, Cathy Kruse, and sparkle fingers to Veronica for this incredible opportunity!

A lesson in evolution

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by coach Linsey Friedman

When a group of pre-adolescent girls is asked to come up with a community impact project, it’s like asking a group of toddlers to pick ONE toy in a toy store. The girls came up with so many ideas we couldn’t even write them all down. The girls from Walden Elementary School are involved in many philanthropic efforts, but often these efforts are clothing/toy drives and offer limited opportunity to experience a personal investment in the outcome. This was their chance to help the world and they wanted to do EVERYTHING! Their ideas ranged from raising money for diseases that we had never even heard of, to raking leaves for seniors in our neighborhood. As coaches, our job was to narrow their choices to tasks they could complete within one GOTR session, and still see the tangible results of their efforts.

Ultimately, two themes continued to emerge: sickness and children. The girls decided to make blankets and cards for critically ill children in hospitals. This allowed the girls to tap in to so many of the strengths that they had fostered throughout the GOTR season. Some had good fine motor skills, some were creative, some were good artists, some could express themselves well, some were very compassionate, and some were good leaders. The list of strengths that they identified in themselves to complete this task was inspiring and truly demonstrated the success of this program.

When the day came for them to complete their community impact project, the girls were extremely enthusiastic and really enjoyed working together. Daryn (4th grade) said “I felt like I was making the world a better place.” Sara (4th grade) said, “It makes me feel good inside to help others.” Bella (4th grade) expressed that she felt proud, and Juliet (4th grade) explained, “I imagined the faces of the kids who would receive these blankets. I hope it makes them smile a little.”

Ultimately, our team partnered with ProjectLinus in the Chicagoland area. According to their website, ProjectLinus is a national organization. Volunteers make blankets and donate them to ProjectLinus. ProjectLinus then takes the blankets to hospitals and shelters. They keep them in a closet or other location where children are able to pick a blanket and then keep it as their own. This organization provides an enjoyable and rewarding service opportunity for children, while also providing warmth, security, and the personal touch of something created by loving hands to children who are ill or in traumatic situations.

Our team had more hope, love and compassion to share than could be expressed by the blankets alone, so they decided to create cards for the children as well. This desire to inspire and motivate children who need it most was definitely fostered by their GOTR experience. I know I speak for all of the coaches involved this season when I say that we were so proud of our girls and honored to have witnessed their evolution. Their increased physical strength, speed and endurance was matched, if not surpassed, by their growing self-knowledge, self-confidence, and self-worth. Their desire to share these amazing lessons is very simply exemplified by Emma and the card she made pictured here.

Help us bring our life-changing program to more girls


Finish line victory

Girls on the Run changes lives.

How do we know? We see it happen every season. It’s the slow build of self-discovery when a girl learns who she is and what she stands for. It’s the transformation from twelve individual girls to one team, working together and supporting one another. It’s the light and the look on the face of every girl who crosses the finish line of our celebratory 5k with an understanding of what it means to set a goal and achieve it. And it’s that feeling of “I can” that will last a lifetime.

But why listen to us when you can hear straight from the families who’ve been impacted by the power of the program? The following statements were pulled directly from the more than 2,100 needs-based scholarship applications we received this year alone. The question asked was, “why do you want your daughter to participate in Girls on the Run?”

“Kira has low self-esteem and doesn’t recognize how unique and special she is.  She doubts her abilities as an athlete and often doesn’t believe that she can do the things other kids can do.  My husband and I are hoping that participating in Girls on the Run will help Kira develop an awareness of and appreciation for her abilities and strengths.  We’re also hopeful that she’ll forge bonds with the girls in the program, since she tends toward introversion and seeing herself as separate from others.”

“Bridget blossomed last year with the help of this program. She became less shy, she was willing to step out of her comfort zone and participate in an activity. She discovered she was good at and enjoyed something athletic. This program was a blessing and I am so happy that our school decided to continue after its first year last year.”

“My husband had to take a new job with a paycut in November, which in itself has been tough. I am currently experiencing a serious eye condition which is zapping any extra funds we had saved up. We are barely making it paycheck to paycheck right now but look forward to the summer when we will hopefully be able to start getting caught up again. I would greatly appreciate a scholarship for my daughter this year. It is humbling and embarrassing to ask for, but after seeing the young lady my daughter grew into after last year’s GOTR and how much she loved it, I can’t bear to tell her she will be unable to participate this year.”

The transformation is unmistakable. And you can play a role by making a tax-deductible donation today.

Stories like these reinforce why our program matters. Now let us tell you why your support matters too. Girls on the Run-Chicago receives no city, state or federal funding and instead is 100% reliant on support from donors like you. More than 84% of the girls in our program receive some sort of financial assistance. Without it, they’d be unable to participate.

During this holiday season, please make a gift that will help change the life of a girl. She’ll learn life skills that will help her navigate her world confidently. She will cross the finish line knowing, firsthand, that big things are possible when you keep moving forward.

And you’ll know, firsthand, that you helped her do it.

Please visit to make a tax-deductible donation today.

Thank you.

Kris Smart, Executive Director

Adventures of a new site coordinator

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dream requirement

You may not realize it, but I am not just the Executive Director of Girls on the Run-Chicago. I am also Mom to my daughter Ella, who is in the fourth grade, and I am a brand new site coordinator. Ella’s school did not have a Girls on the Run program, so I stepped forward, as hundreds of you have, to start one. I tell my team that I wanted to see what went into starting Girls on the Run for our parents, teachers and administrators who take on the site coordinator role; but selfishly, I also want Ella to benefit from the lessons Girls on the Run teaches, and not just her – but her peers – knowing that the program works best when a group of girls have the same GOTR skills and lessons.

It started last spring when I talked to parents about the things we were seeing in our girls, and how we wished there was a way to help them navigate difficult situations, make good choices, and to know that personal fulfillment and self-esteem come from within. We all saw the need for our girls to build these life skills, and especially how to deal with bullying and gossip. I spoke to parents about Girls on the Run, and what we are all about. Many expressed interest in the program and so I set about meeting with the administration.

School is out for the summer, which makes meeting with administrators and decision makers hard, so I set a meeting in early fall and pitched the program to the principal who saw the need for a Girls on the Run program. We decided to meet again after Thanksgiving to settle on a time and location for practice.  Well, that meeting never came. With several things going on both at school and during this year’s particularly nasty flu season, our conversation was put off.

Then I got an email from Shavonne, our Program Manager here at Girls on the Run. It was a reminder of things I needed to have in place to launch the season. She asked me to fill out a simple online form confirming practice times (thanks for the reminder!), and she wanted to know the number of Girls on the Run/Girls on Track teams, and my site contact information. Site contact information helps Girls on the Run–Chicago understand if anything has changed at the school since I applied, knowing how many and which teams helps us order supplies for the season, and practice times helps us plan our site visits for the spring.

Time to get my ducks in a row! I need to have a practice time, recruit coaches and pay my start-up fee! I need to begin thinking about recruiting girls!  I contacted the principal, who has been such a wonderful support in figuring out where in the labyrinth of school activities GOTR will fit in this spring.  I am coordinating with Girl Scouts, Band, Art, Chess, and Basketball.

Now, I need some fellow coaches! I logged into Coaches Corner and found a flyer I could amend with our practice time, and a sample email that I was able to customize, reminding parents about our conversations last spring and the specific volunteer requirements at our school which the principal is including in our school email communications and newsletter this week. Next, I am going to send it directly to a few of the moms in our school who I know have a passion for running and a commitment to the girls. From there, hopefully, I can find a few volunteers to help me coach.

Finding that practice time and coaches are my big worry! I have it really easy, though, because I can always walk over and talk to Shavonne or Priscilla, our Volunteer Manager, and ask questions on how to navigate a busy school schedule or to recruit a parent to serve as a coach with me. They reassure me that it all comes together, and that they are there to support me, and any site coordinator, as they get their program off the ground for their first, or even their 20th season.

It turns out, figuring out practice times and days took only a few emails with parents and the administration. Now I need one or two parents or teachers to help me coach. I feel like that is doable, especially since I don’t have to start from scratch.

I think sometimes as a volunteer, it can be easy to forget all the resources available to us, both online and through the people who work here at Girls on the Run. I thought, “I have to do this all on my own” and the truth is, I didn’t! Don’t forget that we are here to help you through this process, and if you are struggling or have a question, you can reach out at any time. We are invested in your success, and want to help you bring Girls on the Run to the girls in your life.

So, now that I figured out our practice time, I am off to finish my flyer for coach recruitment.  Once that piece is in place, I know the rest will fall in order.