Girls on the Run helps pre-teen kids develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles
Stop by Southport Elementary School on Monday or Wednesday after-school and you will meet a wonderful, energetic group of pre-teen girls actively working to build healthy habits as they participate in GIRLS ON THE RUN (GOTR). This nonprofit after-school program was started in Charlotte, NC in 1996 but has been established and carried on at Southport Elementary under the guidance of Spring Richardson and Casey Cunningham as well as many valued volunteers who assist. Following instructional classes, these leaders implement the program focusing on self-respect and healthy lifestyles while encouraging running. The program culminates in a group 5K run with other GOTR groups. I was invited to come see the program and so I went ready to be an active participant in my running gear. I was warmly received by smiling faces!

Following the school day, the current 16 girls gather with their volunteer leaders in the gym for a brief life lesson. The day I attended, Mrs. Richardson reviewed the past week’s lesson on conflict resolution where the girls were taught strategies to address their issues with others. After sharing their successes, this week’s lesson on gossip and rumors began with the old- fashioned game of “Telephone” where a group of words was communicated around the circle in whispers. Quickly, the lesson became very applicable as positive words became altered to a negative comment through incorrect transmission bringing the lesson to point immediately. After the lesson, the group did an organized warm up then hit the parking lot. Everyone was happy to be outside as inclement weather forces them to run the halls of the school in lap fashion.

Safety of the girls is paramount in the leader’s minds. The girls are allowed to pick a partner then each volunteer is paired with 2-3 girls for safety on the road. The girls have been taught road safety while running but utilized the streets of Indigo Plantation where traffic is minimal and there is a marked bike lane.  This week the group ran 2 miles.

Heard on the street were many positive words of encouragement, high fives to each other as they passed each other and yells of encouragement to finish strong. When asked what they liked the best about the program I heard the following. “I like having someone to run with”, “Running is the best part.”, “I am getting faster and I can go further”!  This group of girls then gathered back at the school in a large circle so each could offer a positive comment of encouragement to someone in the group. Needless to say, I was very moved emotionally by the character exhibited by this fantastic group of pre-teen girls. What an excellent program!health2

This current session of GOTR will end April 25 with the 5K run at Ocean Isle. Each girl who signs up must have an adult partner who will run with them during the race and throughout the week outside of the program. The cost for each girl is $75.  Leaders are volunteer positions.

Mrs. Cunningham reported they try to raise funds to offer scholarships to those who need it.

In addition, they are always in need of funds to help buy appropriate running shoes, socks or shorts for girls in need. If you can help with funds, please direct your tax-deductive contribution to the Southport Elementary School PTA for GOTR. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Casey Cunningham or Spring Richardson through the school at 910-457-6036. You do not have to run…extra eyes are always needed and walkers can bring up the rear. More volunteers would allow more girls to participate!!

Finally, if you are a male who is willing to facilitate a group, the STRIDE program for boys is available but is not currently implemented due to lack of volunteer leaders.


Thank you SES GOTR for sharing your workout with me! Keep up the great fun!

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