Out of all the years that I’ve been creating content and working with brands, this specific partnership, with Always and Target, has been incredibly special and inspiring for me. I had the opportunity to help shed some light on an amazing non-profit organization called Girls on the Run. This positive youth development program is for young girls in third to eighth grades to help them build their confidence and empower them at such a critical age.
Starting at the age of 9, girls’ confidence begins to drop and once they reach age 10, their physical activity levels also begin to decline and continue to do so throughout adolescence. This is why Girls on the Run (GOTR) plays such an integral role in these young girls’ lives. With physical-based activities twice a week spanning over the course of 10 weeks, these girls are given the ability to work together as a team, empower one another and learn to be their best selves. At the end of the curriculum, they participate in a 5K celebration together. How rewarding?!
For over 30 years, Always has been dedicated to building girls’ confidence, which is why they truly appreciate the value of Girls on the Run. Always teamed up with Target to support Girls on the Run for the second year in a row. Together, the organizations have contributed $1.8 million to help move Girls on the Run closer to meeting its goal of serving two million girls by 2021.To learn more about this amazing organization, Always connected me with Coach Theresa, one of the local GOTR coaches from the Brooklyn PS130 school. I had the incredible opportunity to go on a shopping spree for her at Target. This was part of Always’ donation efforts to the GOTR program and a way to give back to the coaches for all of their efforts and dedication to the organization. I curated a special gift bag for her, with everything from beauty products, to Always products and daily essentials to activewear. In their efforts to support both the volunteer coaches and the girls, Always and Target are also providing Coach Theresa with a $5,000 gift card so she can purchase things for her girls, including sneakers, socks and running gear to keep them going.
After my shopping spree at Target, I then went to one of the Girls on the Run practices at PS130 to surprise Coach Theresa with the gift bag, meet the 4th grade girls involved with the program and to learn more about GOTR.
As soon as I got to their practice, they were all sitting outside on the basketball court in a circle participating in one of their lessons. The topic of conversation was social media and determining what certain images portray and how they can come across. I don’t think I could have walked in at a better time. Coach Theresa and Allison Hauser, the executive director, gave me a few minutes to chat with the girls about my take on social media and what I believe goes behind each photo. It’s important to remind them, especially at such a young age, that nothing is perfect, even if it appears to be that way. From staging photos to taking hundreds of snaps to get that one good shot, things are not always as they seem. It was actually super insightful for me to get their take on this topic and listen to some of their responses. It served as this amazing reminder to me to continue being intentional with the content that I put out. These girls were the cutest! From their facial expressions to their enthusiastic energy, I could instantly see how impactful GOTR has been for them. When I first arrived and introduced myself, I asked them if they could tell me a little bit about the program. They explained that this helps them to make better choices, to be more thoughtful and to reach their goals. They even showed me their team cheer: “Girls on the run is so much fun, Girls on the run is number one!”
It was completely evident to me, even in a short amount of time, that this program, Coach Theresa and Allison have had such a positive influence on these girls. I feel so lucky that I was able to be a part of it in some way. After taking some fun photos and participating in part of their practice, I asked Coach Theresa some questions so that I could shed even more light on this organization.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH GIRLS ON THE RUN AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A COACH?
I found out about Girls on the Run when I started at my school (P.S. 130) in 2011. It was already an after school program and I loved the idea that it was special just for girls. The following year I took over the program as a site liaison and I fell in love with it! As a former college athlete I expected it to be focused mostly on running and exercise. I was excited about that but I was hooked when I found out what an empowering program it was! But what really inspired me was all of these amazing volunteer GOTR coaches that chose to show up for my girls every week, taking time out of their busy lives to be role models and inspirations to our community.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST REWARDING PART ABOUT BEING A COACH?
There is so much! I think seeing the girls really apply what they are learning about being their best self and being positive influences on their classmates. I am lucky enough to work at my school as well so I can see that the girls that have been a part of the program really take pride in being a part of the team and hold themselves accountable to be a girl on the run. I also love to see the smiles on the girls’ faces when they reach a goal they set or come up with a thoughtful response to the questions at practice. But I think the best part is when parents come back and say their daughter loves the program and they see the positive impact it is having on them.
WHAT’S SOMETHING YOU’VE LEARNED BY WORKING WITH GOTR FOR SO MANY YEARS?
We are never done learning. I am constantly learning from the girls and coaches and I am reminded to reflect on my own inner girl on the run. The lessons are a great reminder to check in with myself and often times apply a GOTR strategy so I make choices that will help me be a good example for the girls. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and lose sight of the bigger picture and for a few hours every week I get a reminder of what is really important.HOW DOES THIS PROGRAM HELP GIRLS TO BUILD THEIR CONFIDENCE?
The soul of the program is to teach girls that they are amazing. Each lesson helps the girls recognize the great qualities that they possess and to celebrate that but also to celebrate and seek out those qualities in others too. GOTR calls it the girls Star Power, which I think is perfect!
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ACTIVITIES YOU DO DURING PRACTICES?
Each practice has a structure that starts with a discussion of an important topic (Star Power, bullying, helping others etc.) and we apply the topic through a fun activity such as a tag/running game or acting out a little skit. We always reflect on the topic or strategy and then the girls run/skip/walk (between 20-30 minutes) and answer questions or think about ways to apply the topic/scenarios where that would apply. At the end of practice we come together to celebrate our accomplishments and have a closing discussion about the lesson. My favorite part is before we end for the day the girls give each other shout outs and we do a fun and sometimes silly celebration called Energy Awards! It’s wonderful to see them celebrate their teammates.
HOW CAN OTHER WOMEN GET INVOLVED WITH GOTR?
There are so many ways to get involved in girls on the run! The best way to get involved is to go to https://www.girlsontherun.org/ . You can also join us at the end of season Girls on the Run 5k each December and June, and also visit gotrnyc.org/volunteer to learn more about events throughout the year! Our Sneaker Soirée on May 2 is a great way to get involved and support our mission too.”A huge thank you to Always and Target for partnering with me on this wonderful initiative and giving me the chance to share it with all of you! I hope that you enjoyed reading more about Girls on the Run and that you’ll take some time to check out their site and see how you might be able to get involved and help make a difference!