Offered in Moorestown since fall 2013, the Girls on the Run program seeks to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running. This fall, GOTR is coming back to Moorestown and registration is now open for the program that is to be held on Mondays and Thursdays from 4:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Boundary Creek Park, beginning Sept. 12.
The objective of Girls on the Run is to educate and empower girls at an early age to prevent the display of at-risk activities in the future, including substance and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, the early onset of sexual activity, sedentary lifestyle, depression, suicide attempts, and confrontations with the juvenile justice system.
The program also includes lessons to encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development among adolescent girls while also discussing with them their own beliefs, challenges and experiences at this age. Physical activity is then woven into the program to inspire an appreciation of fitness and to build habits that lead to a lifetime of health.
At the end of each three-month session, each girl participates in a GOTR celebratory, non-competitive 5k event. Completing this run gives participating girls a tangible understanding of the confidence that comes through accomplishment.
“The three things we believe and advocate for at Girls on the Run are to be yourself, try your best and have fun. They are the three most powerful tenants of a healthy, exciting and authentic life,” Sydney Davis, executive director of GOTR New Jersey East, said. “I am inspired everyday by girls who surprise themselves with what they can accomplish when they put their heart and mind to the task and by the countless volunteers who are the heartbeat of this awesome organization.”
Davis, a teacher, therapist, runner and mother of two girls, established GOTR in the spring 2001. In its first year of operation, the program had two team sites with 35 participants in Summit and Millburn. Fourteen years later, in 2015 the organization served more than 2,000 girls in its council’s service area that includes Mercer, Burlington, Essex, Union and Morris counties.
“Any girl could benefit from our program, but the ideal girl may be one who is struggling with finding a creative outlet for physical activity, who needs a safe place to explore her issues and to increase her self esteem,” Program Director Anne Klein said. “There are no athletic requirements for our program, as we are non-competitive and a self esteem program first that creatively integrates running as a life skill.”
At the national level, Rita DeBate, an associate professor of community and family health at the University of South Florida, and her associates used a survey of more than 1,000 girls who participated in the GOTR program through affiliates around the country to compare GOTR participants’ attitudes toward body image, self-esteem and physical activity at the beginning and end of the season. The study showed participants in GOTR not only had higher self-esteem and satisfaction with body image, but were also more committed to being physically active.
“As a girl who couldn’t make the cut onto one sports team, I love advocating to tomorrow’s women that all of us can make the choice to be an athlete,” Davis said. “It is as simple as saying yes, believing in yourself and showing up. Girls on the Run helps make that possible for all of us — we are all superstars.”
For more GOTR information, visit the program’s website at www.girlsontherunnj.org or contact Klein at (973) 951–4266.