Learning a healthy lifestyle and developing positive self-esteem has helped a number of Wayne area school-age girls enjoy the sport of running, thanks to a new program called Girls On The Run.
The local organization is in its third year in Wayne, and is part of a national organization that got its start in Charlotte, N.C., back in 1996 and now includes more than 200 groups in all 50 states.
Courtney Maas runs the local group that includes more than 20 kids who meet twice a week, and she said a lot of interest has been shown in the group since it got its start.
“Kailey Rader started it here when she was going to school at Wayne State College,” she said. “She was involved in the group when she was younger and Casey Hunter and I helped her out last year. I wanted to get involved with my daughter being involved in it, and it’s been a fantastic, growing program.”
The focus of Girls On The Run is to help girls in grades 3-6 develop a healthy lifestyle and promote good self-esteem and self-respect. Maas said there is a curriculum that goes with the program, and the kids have fun running and end the program with a 5-kilometer run.
“We start out running for 10 minutes and build up from there,” she said. “We did a practice 5K last Tuesday and were going to run a big one in O’Neill, but it got cancelled after they got hit with 10 inches of snow.”
The mentorship aspect of Girls On The Run includes a “run buddy” that runs with the girls. Maas said that the coaches run with some of the kids, and the kids are encouraged to include a family member or a friend to run with them.
“The girls look forward to having someone run with them and encourage them,” she said. “They can be parents, an aunt or uncle, and some even get their babysitters to run with them.”
The local program started with about eight girls and grew to the point where Maas said they had to limit enrollment to 22 students. With her taking on the role as head coach of the high school cross country team, it’s a program that she hopes will encourage the kids to begin and maintain a healthy lifestyle that will carry them through their young years.
“I’d like to teach them to live a healthy lifestyle and improve their self-esteem, and that’s the biggest goal,” she said. “A lot of friendships have been made between the kids, and it’s been really neat to see those friendships grow.”
While the O’Neill run was snowed out, Maas said the local group is going to have a “fun run” next Tuesday, May 16, beginning at 6 p.m. at Rice Auditorium on the campus of Wayne State College. They’ll run along the community’s walking trail before finishing on the track at Memorial Stadium.