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Running and Life Lessons 

Mentoring

click to enlarge Grant Elementary sixth grader Jada Richardson and mentor Sue Eymann loosen up before a 5k run. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Grant Elementary sixth grader Jada Richardson and mentor Sue Eymann loosen up before a 5k run.

Scores of confident and healthy 8-to-12-year-old girls will be taking over the Negative Split 5K in April thanks to the nonprofit organization Girls on the Run.

The 10-week afterschool program has been working with elementary schools in the area to promote healthy lifestyles and teach valuable lessons to elementary-aged girls to prepare them for high school and beyond. Coming up on the end of its second year in Spokane, the program has more than doubled in size to 71 girls from four elementary schools, a trend that Executive Director Lindsay Box hopes will continue in the future.

During the program, girls partner with volunteer coaches to train for a 5K, work on how to deal with bullying and peer pressure and develop healthy qualities like patience and gratitude.

"They're learning how to respond to issues they'll face in school, with peers and at home," Box says. "We're giving them the tools to act positively in life."

Box, who started working for Girls on the Run eight years ago in Seattle, says that volunteering as a coach is one of the most gratifying experiences she's had.

"The girls get really close to the volunteers," she says. "Last week we talked about bullying, and they had to write down names of adults they would feel comfortable telling if they were being bullied. Most of them wrote down their coaches' and their parents' names."

Box also recognizes the young ladies' boost in confidence. When they start the program, most girls are able to say they can run a mile, but they're unsure whether they could finish a 5K.

"But then to see them when they realize they can actually run more than three miles, it's a great experience," she says.

Volunteer opportunities with Girls on the Run offer flexible time commitments. Coaches help the girls train for the 5K one or two times a week and act as mentors and positive role models throughout the program. Each girl also is assigned a running buddy, who runs at her side during a practice 5K and during the real thing. Running buddies are also welcome to train with the girls throughout the program. While tuition for the program is $150, the organization works hard to provide scholarships for those in need. Find out more at gotrspokane.org.

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