The mission of Girls on the Run, an organization established in 1996 by Molly Barker is: Inspiring girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.
“The program is about building confidence and being strong,” said La Plata County coordinator Paige Hickman, who has gone through the ranks from participant to coach and currently as director. “I feel like I can do anything I put my mind to and complete it. Girls on the Run gave me that mentality.”
Girls on the Run is a 12-week program designed for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade girls and runs from August through November. It ends with a 5K running event.
Stephanie Trudeaux, a counselor at Park Elementary School, and Girls on the Run site liaison and coach, jumped on board as soon as the program was introduced in La Plata County in 2012.
“Running has been a big part of my life since elementary school, and I liked everything about the program,” Trudeaux said. “Through running you empower girls. I thought this was a great concept, and the curriculum is fabulous.
“The lessons are designed around activities using their bodies to help learn the lesson (the mind-body relationship) always setting goals throughout the process.
“The big thing,” she added, “is about empowering the girls – how to like yourself, stand up for yourself and deal with bullying. It has a great social curriculum using running as a tool to bring that out.”
The participants are the best ambassadors for the program. Nine-year-old Maggie Vanbuskirk has participated for the past two years.
“I just felt like I could really express myself, and they would listen and help me figure out a way that I could solve my problems,” she said.
Maggie plans to do the program again next fall and also plans to keep running.
“The running was so much fun for me. I definitely learned how to express my feelings when running. I also learned that I don’t have to disguise myself; I can be who I want to be and who I am.”
Ten-year-old Emily Dodge chimed in with enthusiasm over her experience.
“I learned that I can be really good in life,” she said. “I know that I am beautiful on the inside and smart in my own way. It has encouraged me to do what I want to do. I am very good at math and want to be an engineer. Girls on the Run has really made me a better person.”
Both girls are looking forward to continuing with the program next year as fifth-graders and taking their running to the next level as they enter middle school and beyond.
Plans are in the works for a week-long summer camp in Durango, as well as expanding the program into more of the local elementary schools.
The need for coaches is ongoing.
“The more coaches, the better experience for the girls with more one on one time,” Hickman said. “Coaches provide support and encouragement. There is no requirement to be a runner; it’s more of a mentor program.”
For more information or to volunteer as a head coach, assistant coach or running buddy, email Hickman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Marjorie Brinton at email@example.com.