I’ve known about Girls on the Run (GOTR) for a while and have been intrigued with the mission of the organization: Inspiring girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum, which creatively integrates running.
As a long-time runner, I’ve always wanted to get involved with GOTR to share my passion for running with the girl participants. Running has been such an important part of my life and has helped to build my self-confidence that it seemed liked a natural fit and a great opportunity to talk with the girls about the many benefits of running. The timing never seemed right, until now.
One of the goals of my blog is to promote running and encourage community engagement. So, when I heard that GOTR was in need of Running Buddies, I knew that I wanted to share their story.
Teri Smith from GOTR was kind enough to respond to questions I had about the organization and their current needs. Teri is GOTR’s “Chief Twitterer” (aka Volunteer Social Media Coordinator), but she also hits the ground running in many other areas, including development and fundraising.
How did you get involved with Girls on the Run?
In 2008, I was a Running Buddy during the Jingle Bell Run. I loved what the program stood for and watching the girls accomplish this big goal that they had set for themselves. A few years later I became good friends with the now president of the GOTR board, and she kept encouraging me to get involved with the organization. When time opened up in my schedule, I jumped in with both feet, and I have loved every minute of it. I’m helping out with the social media and communications side of things.
What makes GOTR special?
Everyone talks about the running piece of the program, which is pretty incredible, but for me, it’s the lessons the girls learn throughout the season that really makes the GOTR program special. People talk about the “girl box,” the unspoken rules about what girls are “supposed” to do or be. The program teaches the girls that they don’t have to conform to these rules. They learn about emotions, friendship, and how to listen to each other—all of the skills that are so vital to successfully navigating middle school. And they do it through the GOTR curriculum of movement that culminates in running a 5k, which is a real, tangible goal they can be proud of. I don’t know of any other organization that is tackling issues of self-esteem in quite the same way.
What are your needs this year?
We need Running Buddies! We have about 560 girls in our program this year, and we match every single one with a Running Buddy. Right now, we have about 400 Buddies recruited, so we still need more. Beyond that, we’re always looking for “shoe angels”—we try to provide shoes to any girl who needs them, so new shoe donations are always appreciated.
What makes a great Running Buddy?
A great Running Buddy has enthusiasm—that’s really the key. The more you can cheer on your girl, encourage her, and just be with her, the more fun you will have. The surprising fact, though, is that running ability really doesn’t matter. Most of our girls do a run/walk combination, so as long as you can walk three miles somewhat briskly, you should be just fine. Check out our Running Buddy tips here.
Why do you recommend women and girls get involved in GOTR?
Serving as a Running Buddy is a fun and easy way to get involved. It’s a two-part commitment—one practice 5k (May 7, 4:30-6:30 pm) and then the real thing on May 30 from 9:00 am-12:00 pm (this year, GOTR is hosting its very own 5k for the first time!). As a Running Buddy, you encourage your girl to do her best, celebrate her efforts, and to have fun. We’re showing these girls what happens when women come together in support and celebration of each other. As a Running Buddy you can learn almost as much as they do.
As for the girls, it can help even the most confident of girls. The GOTR lessons encompass everything from navigating friendships to bullying to healthy habits, and they are done in a fun and energetic way. The girls are introduced to the potential joy to be found in running; it isn’t uncommon for the girls to start running track and cross country after their experience in GOTR. But even if a girl learns that running isn’t her favorite, she’ll still walk away with an achievement that she can be proud of.
Can you share a favorite GOTR moment or story?
Last year a parent told me that her daughter was using the communication tools she learned from the GOTR lesson, “It Takes Courage.” The girl went home and used her “I statements” with her brother to assert herself in a healthy way to resolve conflict. She used the language, “I feel…when you…because…and I would like you to…” She was able to express herself and mediate the situation without her mom’s intervention.
Are there other ways to get involved or volunteer with GOTR?
Yes—volunteers are welcome to join one of our two committees responsible for putting on our annual auction fundraiser and organizing our first 5k running event. Attending our annual fundraiser on May 2 is a great way to support GOTR and learn more about us.
If you want to dig deeper into the program, you can sign up to be a volunteer running coach. We’re also starting up a new program called Solemates, a Team in Training-like fundraising arm of our organization where folks run races to raise money for Girls on the Run scholarships; we’re hoping to start rolling out information on it by the end of May.
For more information on GOTR Portland, visit their website or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter. Girls on the Run is a national organization with councils throughout the US and Canada (btw, there’s a similar, unaffiliated organization for boys called Let Me Run).
Thank you, Teri, for sharing more about Girls on the Run and your needs for the year—I’m happy to say that you need one less Running Buddy now. Hey friends, won’t you join me and be a Running Buddy for this great organization?
Have you been involved with GOTR? Please share your story and experience here.