Ironically, the words escape me when I try to explain how big my heart is after reading about this week’s Hometown Happenings’ “Feel Good Friday” edition. There is no greater gift in this world than the gift of a future for the next generation. It is a gift that is invisible to the untrained eye, provided only by time, patience and love, but can be felt by the heart for a lifetime. As a proud and active sponsor, Hometown Happenings is thrilled to share this story, because that is exactly what Girls on the Run is giving young girls of all ages and backgrounds — Stepping stones to a bright and beautiful future.
As a sponsored program for the Hometown Mother’s Day “Run Like a Mother 5K” on May 12th, I had the chance to find out more about the Girls on the Run “SoleMate” program from Jill Schlueter-Kim, Executive Director, Jacqueline Weber, Development Director and few of the GOTR SoleMates themselves. Their stories of how and why this wonderful program began and the impact it has had on not just the lives of the girls in the program, but their own is truly incredible.
What is Girls on the Run SoleMates program?
Charity running has become an integral part of most fitness events across the country. Training for any fitness event is often challenging and being a SoleMate is a great way to keep it fun, stay motivated and maintain your commitment. The Girls on the Run SoleMates program provides people an opportunity to raise money for Girls on the Run of Northwest Indiana while training for the athletic event of their choice. SoleMates set personal goals such as running in a marathon, half -marathon, 5k or Triathlon to raise money for Girls on the Run in their community.
So, why does Girls on the Run have a Charity Running Program? There is one reason why Girls on the Run offers the SoleMates program: to serve more girls!
Each year, our SoleMates raise critically needed funds that ensure our councils are able to serve more girls in their communities. Expanding the program to serve more girls requires significant financial and human resources. Engaging the community to support our mission is critical in order to impact the lives of millions of girls.
Girls on the Run SoleMates also has the potential to be a life-changing experience for all. The program provides a meaningful opportunity to share the values of the organization with everyone; not only the participants in the Girls on the Run program. SoleMates teams raise awareness about Girls on the Run and also enable councils to build a community of potential volunteers. At its core, SoleMates is a mission-based, peer-to-peer fundraising initiative that helps Girls on the Run serve more girls.
How did Girls on the Run and the SoleMates program get their start?
The SoleMates program was established by GOTR International and they created a model for all of the 225 councils across the US to use at the local level. GOTR of NWI established our first SoleMates team around 2012 with a half-marathon training team at Fleet Feet in Schererville.
GOTR of Northwest Indiana was established in 2007. We had our first team of 15 brave girls at Merkley Elementary School in Highland in the fall of 2007. I had read about the program in Runners World magazine and felt really drawn to it because of my experience as a runner, social worker and mom of 3 girls. We are now in our 24th season of GOTR having served over 12,000 girls throughout seven counties in Northwest Indiana. Over 2,300 girls will participate this year.
We offer the program on a sliding fee scale and look to our SoleMates as part of our fundraising plan to ensure that all girls can participate in the program, regardless of their ability to pay. Over 65% of our girls receive financial assistance each year totaling over $200,000 in scholarships. We consider our SoleMates a part of our GOTR family and do our best to include them in events and provide support to them.
Can you share a little about how Girls on the Run has made an impact?
By age 9, girls’ self-confidence begins to decline. 50% of girls ages 10 to 13 experience bullying such as name calling and exclusion at a time when peer relationships become more central to girls’ lives. Additionally, physical activity levels decline starting at age 10 and continue to decline throughout adolescence.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Girls on the Run is dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.
An independent study conducted by Dr. Maureen Weiss, Ph.D., University of Minnesota, provides strong evidence that Girls on the Run is effective in promoting positive youth development, including season-long and lasting change in competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, physical activity, and life skills. Furthermore, the study found that Girls on the Run makes a stronger impact than organized sports and physical education programs in teaching life skills, demonstrating that strategies such as those for managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others, and making intentional decisions are optimized when they are explicitly taught. The program’s unique, intentional curriculum taught by trained coaches explains the season-long improvements in social, psychological, and physical behaviors as well as learning of critical life skills that benefit girls in their everyday lives.
Girls on the Run is the only national physical-activity based positive youth development program for girls with compelling evidence of program impact. It is our research-based curriculum, trained coaches and a commitment to serve all girls that sets us apart as an exemplar PA-PYD program.
Interested in becoming a SoleMate & running for FREE?
Yes you can run the Run Like a Mother 5K and/or the Hub City Races for free by reaching your goals as a SoleMate. To find out how & to get involved as a SoleMate, you can register at www.gotrofnwi.org or contact GOTR Development Director, Jacqueline Weber, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Still not sure? Read below to hear why becoming a SoleMate can change the lives of our future leaders, champions and earthshakers, and even your own.
Why did you become a SoleMate?
“When I was a kid my mom never accepted “I can’t.” She always said we could do anything we set our mind to. I was a Pre-teen/Teen and who believes their mom at that age. Now I realize how much her supporting, encouraging and pushing me helped. Now my mom is exactly who I want to be. A woman dominating in her field (a man dominated field at that.) For me, this is what Girls on the Run is trying to achieve. Encourage girls to believe in themselves, push beyond limits and go the distance. Just like I do at the marathons, the program encourages girl to seek their limitless potential. So, in order to help Girls on the Run I became a Solemate so they can keep doing that.” – Deanna Grimes, GOTR SoleMate
“Having a strong mom and 3 older sisters in my family made me appreciate women from an early age. I also saw how they showed strength and character when times were difficult. My parents divorced when I was 11. So, it was left mostly up to my mom to raise us 4 kids on her own. There were many times when the budget was tight, and she didn’t have all the answers. But, she pushed through and never let us kids know that she was frightened or concerned. My sister, Chis became a CPA in the early 1980s. While that does not seem that long ago, business clubs like Rotary still did not allow female members. So, while our world has greatly improved women still face a world of challenges, and Girls on the Run helps prepare them with self-confidence and improved self-esteem to go for their goals and achieve them.”– Tim Fealy, GOTR Board & Coach
“I opted to join SoleMates this year after my first marathon because it felt like something was missing after completing the race. While I was happy and proud of myself, I realized there was a key part of my personality that I couldn’t reach with running. That is where running for charity has truly changed my mindset. I am ecstatic to participate this year for the first time.” – Maureen Carroll, GOTR SoleMate
It is with a huge smile plastered on my face as a runner, a woman, and a mother of a teenage girl that I find these words…Thank You. Thank you, Girls on the Run for shining a light for all young girls, giving them a foundation to be brave enough to find their true potential, and guiding them to a future where there is no limit to what they can accomplish!
To contribute to this amazing cause please check out GOTR Northwest Indiana’s website at https://www.gotrofnwi.org/ or sign up for the Hometown Happening’s Run Like a Mother 5k, Mother’s Day, May 12th.
See you there!