Girls on the Run Riverside aims to empower through exercise – San Bernardino Sun

A Riverside organization empowers girls through exercise and life skills.

Girls on the Run is a program that uses research-based curriculum to help girls value themselves,teamwork and relationships so they recognize the impacts they can have in the world. Girls on the RunInternational was founded in 1996 by Molly Barker with the goal of teaching girls confidence, to empowerthem and to encourage physical activity. What started with 13 girls in North Carolina is now anorganization with independent councils that serve more than 2 million girls across North America.

Girls on the Run International determined there was a need for the program in Riverside and SanBernardino. In January 2020, under the leadership of Erin Munro and six founding board members, Girlson the Run Riverside received its nonprofit designation. The local council launched with 50 girls at fivesites but had to quickly transition to a virtual platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now the organization is back to operating afterschool programs and serving 250 girls. The group’s programs include its signature offering, Girls on the Run, which serves those in third through fifth grades. Volunteer coaches lead participants through lessons that blend exercise with life skills development. The program typically takes place twice a week for 10 weeks.

“I am determined to make sure this experience is positive and that the girls have a healthy attitude toward exercise,” Munro said. “We encourage them to find their happy place, whether that is to run, hop, skip or dance.”

Girls on the Run’s Heart & Sole program is available for middle school girls in sixth through eighth grades. The program focuses on meeting the needs of girls of all abilities, working in curriculum that addresses body, brain, heart, spirit and social connection. Heart & Sole strives to create a place where girls feel they belong while they strengthen their physical and emotional health. The program culminates with a 5K event that happens in conjunction with the organization’s sister council in Los Angeles.

Girls on the Run also teaches girls that they have a responsibility to be a part of their community and encourages them to discover ways they can make a difference through community projects. So far, girls in the program have worked on campus beautification projects at their schools and on a project at the Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center in Riverside.

“It teaches them the power and the impact they can have and to get outside of themselves,” Munro said. “The girls are surprised that they can do these things. The physical aspect is huge, but it is so much more than running.”

Recently, Girls on the Run received a grant from Youth Grantmakers through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The organization used this support to create a junior advisory board for high school students who want to remain involved and coach. The organization depends on funding to keep programs low cost and provide participants with the equipment they need. Participants pay $185, but the program expense is approximately $450 per girl. The organization also depends on volunteer coaches.

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