At the Crimsonbridge Foundation, I have the privilege of working with transformational nonprofit organizations that work tirelessly to have a positive impact on the lives of youth in our community. One of those inspiring organizations is Girls on the Run of Montgomery County, where for eight seasons I have also had the opportunity to serve as a volunteer running coach.
As a coach, I have learned that it can be difficult to keep twenty 3rd-5th grade girls motivated as they prepare for the 5K that takes place at the end of each ten-week season. Every season, inevitably, one of the girls on the team asks me some variation of this question, “Why do we have to run?” To all of the girls who have asked that question, I would offer one simple word in response: empowerment.
Aligned with the goals of the Crimsonbridge Foundation, Girls on the Run envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. It is much more than a running program. At each practice, coaches lead their team through a lesson such as “Attitude of Gratitude,” “Real Beauty,” and “Putting an End to Gossip.” The girls learn to recognize their inner strengths, and to celebrate what makes them unique. They learn about the importance of giving back to the community, and are empowered to make a difference in the world by designing and completing a community impact project as a team.
These lessons are more important now than ever before. Studies show that by adolescence, girls’ confidence drops about twice as much as boys’. Exacerbated by social media and celebrity culture, girls can feel pressured to conform to certain images and stereotypes. Girls on the Run challenges these false ideals, and inspires girls to respect themselves and others. The girls’ completion of the end of season 5K gives them a tangible understanding of the confidence that comes through accomplishment, as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals.
In Montgomery County, each fall and spring, 2,500 girls from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds come together to achieve the goal they have been working towards all season. Girls run, walk, skip, and jump across the 5K finish line, and in that moment, they are empowered. They raise their arms in victory, they high-five teammates, they dance, they smile.
At a final practice, I asked each girl to share one thing she had learned at Girls on the Run. I smiled as a 4th grader, announced, “I learned that I can do anything!” Such a simple, but powerful, lesson. The finish line really is just the beginning. #Community @GOTRMoCo