Girls on the Run Memphis works to inspire girls “to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.” Its name suggests a running club. And while running is a component of Girls on the Run, it’s not the focal point. The 10-week, after-school program gives its participants an opportunity to come together twice a week for a fun and interactive curriculum that helps them work on confidence and character while learning how to make meaningful contributions to society and how to better deal with their peers. Each session begins with an interactive lesson and ends with a physical activity that incorporates the theme into the run.
“It’s not about being fast or super competitive,” said Joanna Lipman, Girls on the Run Memphis council director. “It’s the idea that you can work toward a goal with people who support you. This isn’t cross-country or a running club. It’s looking at who you are and living to your fullest potential in kindness and inner-strength, all of those things that don’t get talked about in school. We’re looking for these girls to have important conversations with one another and break down barriers.”
Girls on the Run began in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1996. It was founded as a physical activity–based youth development program for girls in third through eighth grades. That one local organization since has grown to more than 210 Girls on the Run councils that serve 200,000 girls annually. Girls on the Run Memphis, in its first year, is just getting started this fall.
“In the communities where Girls on the Run started, it’s always because someone identifies the fact that self-esteem is critical in our girls at these ages,” Lipman said. “There aren’t many after-school activities that are holistic, that address the emotional as well as physical sides. You might play soccer or swim, but they need mentoring and support at this age when confidence also fluctuates for them.”
The 10-week program culminates with a 5K, which will be the Shelby Farms Buffalo 5K on November 10, 2018. It doesn’t matter if the girls skip, walk or run, Lipman said. The important point is that they enjoy what is meant as a celebration; but the 5K is not an ending. In fact, the plan is for the program to run in the fall and spring, at both the current locations and new program sites, which will include schools and community centers around Shelby County, as well as Tipton, Fayette and DeSoto counties.
School support is crucial for the program’s success. Girls on the Run programs aren’t required to take place at schools, but as an after-school program it’s a logical staging ground. Shelby County Schools supports the organization, hosting it at Sharpe Elementary and Kate Bond Middle schools. Hutchinson School also hosts a program that’s open to both its students and the community at large.
Girls on the Run Memphis wants to ensure that there are no barriers to participation for any school or girl interested in being a part of the program. Girls on the run relies on generous donations to ensure that all girls, regardless of their economic situation, have access to their program. Over 70% of their participants receive financial assistance. Help make sure no girl is turned away by sponsoring a girl’s program fee for $175. Anyone interested in learning more about volunteering, sponsorship opportunities, as well as expressing interest in bringing the program to their community, can find more information at gotrmemphis.org.
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