Girls on the Run Napa Valley– By Kristin Ranuio
Molly Barker didn’t quite feel comfortable in her own skin. Around age 11, it got even worse when she stepped into what she calls the “Girl Box”, a place many girls go when they start to feel that what others think of them is more important than celebrating who they are. Not until she was 32 did things change. During a sunset run, she felt empowered, complete, confident, and comfortable with who she was. She knew that if strapping on some shoes and running could do that for her, it could do it for other girls. And so, Girls on the Run was born.
One of the 200 Girls on the Run councils across the U.S. and Canada is Girls on the Run Napa Valley (GOTRNV), with 14 seasons now under its belt. The GOTRNV spring season begins March 4 and runs through May 18th, culminating in a 5k fun run. Girls in third through the eighth-grade meet twice-weekly, after school, for 10 weeks for sessions that include talking, running, and activities covering topics such as nutrition, confidence, celebrating your inner self, and being a part of a community. GOTRNV goes well beyond running. It creatively combines life skill curriculums with fun and experiential activities, with the goal of inspiring the girls to be joyful, healthy and confident. Each group also works on a community service project that they decide on together. In the past girls, have made healthy lunches for the homeless, collected items to donate to a pet shelter, and picked up litter.
GOTRNV Executive Director/President, Janet Todd, tells of some of the ways girls have been impacted through the program, “A teacher came up to me and Michelle (Bread) at the end of the 10 weeks and let us know that she asked one of her students why she was happy, smiling, raising her hand and answering math questions, when earlier that year she had been quiet and reserved. The student responded it was because of Girls on the Run. Wow! You think it can’t get any better than this but, truly, ever time we continue to hear from girls, parents, volunteer coaches and teachers how much Girls on the Run has helped or inspired them. Just this past season, at NVLA , one of the girls shared that she had thought she was too chubby and didn’t want to come to school. Know she knows she is healthy and beautiful and is confident enough to stand up to someone who was bullying her!
Groups are run by local volunteers, and being a runner is not a prerequisite. GOTRNV is looking for volunteers who are positive, healthy, and want to help inspire girls to believe in themselves. Volunteers are asked to commit to one or two days a week for a total of 20 to 35 hours in a ten week season. Past volunteers have included parents, college students, grandmothers, nurses, bankers, and more.
One such volunteer is new Program Coordinator, Teri Stevens, who enjoyed her experience coaching and mentoring the girls at Napa Valley Language Academy. “Transitioning to Program Coordinator was an easy
decision. It was exciting to participate in GOTRNV
and witness firsthand the positive, empowering influence
the program provides girls on many important social and emotional levels,” she says.
Schools participating this season are Bel Aire, Calistoga, Donaldson Way, El Centro, Laurel Creek, McPherson, Mt. George, Northwood, NVLA, Pacific Union, Phillips, Salvador, Shearer, St. Helena, Snow, Vichy, West Park, Yountville, Blue Oak School, Harvest and River Middle Schools, and Silverado Middle School. Girls not enrolled in these schools can still participate and join at most school sites. There is no online registration, only paper. Todd said, “Since we have a number of families who do not have access to the internet, we utilize the paper-only registration so all have the opportunity to be the first 12 or 15 girls to register and be part of the group.” Registration ends March 15. However, the 5k fun run is open to everyone.
Todd said, “Girls on the Run Napa Valley is providing a rich and diverse experience to all girls within Napa County. We have 74% low income girls receiving scholarships and 63% of the girls are Latina. This year, we are on target to inspire over 500 girls and we need volunteers to help meet the demand. We are asking for volunteers. If you cannot volunteer, maybe you can help support us financially. We need to raise $100,000 annually from donations, sponsorships and grants. Since we are small and volunteer-driven we typically don’t qualify for larger grants. Any and all donations are much appreciated.”