"Without support and funding from Harvest, we would be unable to develop, promote and sustain initiatives to address health issues and work toward a healthier future for Martinsville and Henry County. "
- Barbara Jackman, Executive Director - MHC Coalition for Health and Wellness
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Girls on the Run to hold first registration in area

January 20, 2012

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Registration will be held Saturday for a new program in the area designed to help young girls improve their self-esteem and celebrate their differences.

Girls on the Run will serve girls in third through eighth grades. During the 10-week program, participants will train for a 5K run (about 3 miles) and will be taught lessons that empower them to celebrate their bodies, honor their voices and embrace their gifts, according to Veronica Favero, a physical education teacher at Carver Elementary School who helped bring the program to the area.

The program is scheduled to begin locally Jan. 30. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Martinsville YMCA. Girls will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Studies were conducted in Charlotte, N.C., where the Girls on the Run is headquartered, on the impact of the program. The studies showed “a significant positive impact” on girls’ self-esteem, body-size satisfaction and physical activity behaviors, Favero said.

Favero, who also is the Girls on the Run council director, said the program is important for young girls because it is designed to make them stronger and more confident.

Participants will meet twice a week to learn 20 lessons such as positive self-talk, gratitude and healthy eating habits.

Each lesson will contain an interactive activity to get the girls moving. For example, during the lesson on gratitude, girls will have a relay race in which they will run from one side of a room to another, where someone will be holding a poster that reads “gratitude.” Once they arrive at the poster, the girls will write down what they are thankful for with words beginning with each letter of “gratitude,” Favero said.

The activities are not competitive. “It’s just about doing it” to the best of your ability, she added.

For a healthy eating habits lesson, the girls will form a circle with the coach standing in the center. The girls then will play a form of musical chairs by moving to a piece of paper listing a healthy eating habit. The girl who doesn’t land on a piece of paper will have to give an example of a healthy eating habit, such as eating fruit for a snack, Favero said.

After each lesson and activity, the girls will do a workout for about 45 minutes to train for the 5K run. A different workout will be planned for each lesson, Favero said.

Many of the activities are designed to get girls to take time to reflect. During the positive self-talk lesson, the girls will run in unison and reflect on how wonderful they are as individuals, Favero said.

The goal of the lessons is to show the girls that they do not have to be exceptionally beautiful or athletic. What matters is “what’s on your heart” and on the inside, which is what makes you strong and confident, Favero said.

Lee Probst, director of admissions at Carlisle School, who also helped bring the program to the area, will teach the sixth- through eighth-grade girls in what is being called “Girls on Track.”

The Girls on Track curriculum mirrors the Girls on the Run objective and is part of the same program, but the content is more mature. It focuses on middle school issues such as feeling comfortable in your own skin, realizing that you don’t look like others but you have a special skill, being a role model and striving to serve your community, according to Probst.

All of the girls involved will share the negative messages that run through their heads and the pressures that they face. Molly Barker, who founded the Girls on the Run program in 1996, designed the program to involve running because when you run, those voices in your head are quiet, according to Favero.

Probst wanted to bring such a program to the area because she sees how her 8-year-old daughter already is experiencing social pressures such as feeling not smart enough, not pretty enough and not wanting to stand out as different, but instead wanting to blend in, Probst said.

If her daughter is facing those issues, Probst thought, “what can I do as a parent” and what can she do for the community to make girls more self-assured, she added.

If the issues are addressed in a positive way, the girls can take the lessons with them forever, Probst said.

“My hope is that these girls have a positive female role model” after completing the program, she said. Also, she hopes the girls celebrate that everyone is different and they should be thankful for those differences, Probst added.

Girls on the Run is “a wonderful program to give them the tools to deal with the pressures,” she added.

Those interested in volunteering with the program can pick up applications Saturday. Volunteers are needed to help with the 5K run to operate the water station or to be running buddies with the girls during the event, Favero said.

Enrollment will be on a first-come, first-served basis because there are only 36 spots available — 24 for third- through fifth-graders and 12 for sixth- through eighth-graders.

There is no charge to the participants.

Once registered, the programs will take place at the following locations:

• Girls on the Run (third-fifth grade) — 4 to 5:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at the Martinsville YMCA

• Girls on the Run (third-fifth grade) — 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Carlisle School

• Girls on Track (sixth-eighth grade) — 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Carlisle School.

The program will end April 21 with the 5K run.




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