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WEST CHESTER — The 5K running through West Chester on May 30 was dominated by young girls.
As part of the Girls on the Run program, these girls from third through eighth grade went through a 10-week preparation for the race.
“The girls are involved in a 10-week program to train for it with coaches,” said Barb Cronin, marketing communications specialist with the YMCA of Greater Brandywine. “They meet twice a week and have lessons for self-confidence, self-awareness and self-esteem to go along with the training for the running. In the end, it culminates with the 5K and they each have a running buddy, whether it be a mom or aunt or some adult that they run with.”
The national program celebrated changing one million girls’ lives and they hope to do that for another million more.
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It’s a nonprofit organization which wants to create a world where girls can boldly pursue their dreams and activate their limitless potential.
Through the two-and-a-half-month program, Girls on the Run teaches young girls life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games.
The YMCA of Greater Brandywine plays host to the program, giving the coaches and girls a place to meet twice a week.
“The Y is a sponsor of them to help with the coaches and provide support for training and send kids e-mails and coordinate with all the coaches with the individual elementary and middle schools in the area,” Cronin said.
This year’s Girls on the Run 5K in West Chester featured 2,800 girls in the program and in the race.
“This is the largest so far,” Cronin said. “They have a lot of fun and like hanging out with each other. They’re doing the running together and some of them become lifelong runners. A lot of the kids I saw while walking around and talking had done it and are in high school now and their little sister or brother was doing it, so they were volunteering at the event or running also. There were a lot of families that were involved.”
Though the race was dominated by these elementary and middle school girls from all over Chester County, the race itself was also open up to the public as well.
Race-day registrations itself saw 171 additional people running for a program which does so much good for young girls.
“It’s a great program for the girls,” Cronin said. “They develop a way to deal with stress and anxiety. In my research, I found that girls are two times more likely than boys to suffer from anxiety and depression and at the same time, by the age of roughly 14, they’re dropping out of sports at two or three times the rate of boys. Exercise is a proven thing to release stress and anxiety. I think it’s an important program to get the girls the skills to deal with the stress, such as exercise, but also they get the coping skills.”
A 10-year-old girl who participated in the run sent Cronin a letter about the program and what it has done for her.
“A girl from Bradford Heights Elementary School said ‘it built her self confidence, taught her to be the best she can be and she’s more confident now.’”
Girls on the Run, which continues to grow not only in the county, but nationwide, affects more than just the girls involved.
“It’s good to see them all come together,” Cronin said. “I love seeing the family support for these girls for doing something that’s really healthy for them. It brings the whole family together and creates a wholesome environment that’s nice to see on such a large scale.”