As much as we've progressed in the past few decades when it comes to female empowerment, there's still a long way to go. Girls and women of all ages still need to be lifted up and that's where groups like Girls on the Run come in. Girls on the Run, a non-profit organization that first began in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina and swiftly spread throughout the country, is celebrating its eleventh year in Utah. Needless to say, the program has flourished, hosting more than 350 end-of-the-season 5k events, making the series the largest in the country. So why should you get in all on this running goodness for girls? Here's the scoop.
Girls on the Run programs are specifically designed for girls ages 8 to 13, a critical time when girls experience the highest drop in self-esteem. So why running? Turns out, roughly 75 percent of girls and women in the country aren't physically active enough. Through running, Girls on the Run Utah is providing an accessible, outdoor-recreation opportunity for girls and their families. But the program is far more valuable than simply as a means to of getting more active. Girls on the Run also teaches girls how to handle emotions, solve conflicts, and achieve their goals. "We need to help girls find their voices and cherish their individuality," says Heidi Moreton, executive director of Girls on the Run Utah. "Running is the tool used to get girls moving and help them set goals. By finishing their goal of finishing a 5k race we teach them that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. We hope they use these tools in other areas of their lives."
Beyond the running, girls also participate in lessons to help them find their personal strengths, build self-worth, and increase confidence, like learning how to cope with negative thoughts and situations that could dim their innate light (or star power). And clearly it's working. A recent study showed that the program is highly effective in getting girls in the 3rd through 5th grades (ages 8 to 11) increase their physical activity while teaching critical life skills they can use at home. In fact, 97 percent of girls who have participated in Girls on the Run reported it helped them manage emotions, resolve conflicts, make intentional decisions, and help others. Of course, programmers get something in return. "Working with the girls, I am constantly reminded to choose love over fear, to be brave, and to be kind," says Moreton. "I truly believe that at Girls on the Run, every girl wins."
Now's your chance to get involved with Girls on the Run Utah. Registration is now open girls for upcoming program which runs March 12 through June 2nd at numerous locations, including in Summit County. The program will conclude with a celebratory Girls on the Run Utah 5k in Salt Lake City's Sugar House Park, which is open to the public (You can register here). Girls on the Run Utah is also hosting their first ever Women's Wellness Event on April 14th at the Blair IHC Education center in Park City, open to girls and women ages 14 and up.