Last spring, Porter County Parks and Recreation teamed up with Girls on the Run of Northwest Indiana to offer an empowering program for girls in third through fifth grades.
About halfway through the 12-week session, head coach Jenna Martin began receiving text messages and e-mails from parents excited about the growth they were seeing in their daughters.
“They were so happy with the program and wanted me to know that their daughter was so happy to be a part of Girls on the Run,” Martin said. “They talked about the changes in the girls and their willingness to discuss the topics we covered.”
The girls met each week at Sunset Hill Farm County Park to train for a 5K, while also addressing a wide range of issues that the girls faced on a daily basis. The curriculum focused not only on physical fitness, but also emotional, mental, social and spiritual well-being. The program culminated in the girls completing a 5K race in Highland on May 19
“What started out as 15 little girls with desires, fears, questions, needs, and contributions, ended 12 weeks later with 15 not-so-little girls with bigger desires, deeper questions, different needs and more contributions,” Martin said. “And all of this they realized while training for a 5K race.”
The response was so positive, that Girls on the Run will once again be offered at Sunset Hill Farm County Park beginning August 20. The program has also expanded to offer Girls on Track, which is designed for sixth- through eighth-graders and addresses challenges and issues specific to that age group.
Both teams will meet at Sunset Hill Farm County Park every Monday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. They will train in preparation for a 5K race that will take place in LaPorte on Nov. 10.
Coaches will also facilitate discussions and activities that allow the girls to express themselves and listen to others. The goal is that they work to become the best people they can be, while encouraging their peers to do the same.
“It’s positive for the girls because the activities deal with issues they face in school and life and gives them a safe, positive arena to learn how to use their voice and be themselves,” Porter County Parks and Recreation Wellness Coordinator Becky Kreiger said.
Kreiger will coach the teams with Martin, who is a marathoner, and Tammy Zack, who is an experienced trail runner.
Girls on the Run and Girls on Track are national not-for-profit programs with the mission to “educate and empower girls at an early age in order to prevent the display of at-risk activities in the future.”
Martin said Sunset Hill Farm County Park, located at 775 Meridian Road in Liberty Township, is the perfect place for the program. She noted that the team has access to an indoor Program Center, water, and assistance from park staff. The girls also have the chance to run on a variety of surfaces, including grass, paved paths and mulched trails.
“I am so thrilled that I will have my site at Sunset Hill Farm again this fall,” she said. “Our parks are underutilized and yet they have so much to offer. It is a beautiful location to have access to and we are all so lucky it is virtually in our back yards.”
The cost to participate in the 12-week Girls on the Run program is $80 per student, which includes race registration and a T-shirt. To register, contact Wellness Coordinator Becky Kreiger at 219-734-0203, email@example.com, or for more information visit www.gotrofnwi.org.
About Porter County Parks and Recreation
The mission of the Porter County Parks and Recreation Board and Department is to preserve, protect and manage the natural, cultural and recreational resources within a diverse park system. For more information, call 219-465-3586, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.portercountyparks.org.