A non-profit organization is preparing for another season of positively impacting the lives of young women in the Chippewa Valley.
Girls on the Run is a local youth empowerment nonprofit that aims to positively change the lives of elementary-age girls across the state of Wisconsin. The program pairs girls in grades 3-5 (roughly ages 8-12) with teachers and adult mentors together for 90 minutes twice a week after school for 10 weeks in a unique learning setting. Each team consists of at least eight girls, with 20 being the maximum per team.
The core goals of the program are to bolster emotional well-being, teach intentional decision making, teach friendship skills and overall positively impact the lives of the young girls involved in the program. The unique aspect of this is they pair the lessons with running and physical training to help the girls stay attentive, energized and engaged with the lessons. In addition to the lessons, the running aspect of the program culminates with a 5K on Saturday, May 11, when the girls, their families and the mentors will all run together to celebrate the more than two month-long program.
Council Director for Girls on the Run of the Chippewa Valley Ellie Siedow said studies have shown on average the age girls’ confidence starts to drop is at age 9, so the program aims to impact the girls’ lives at a pivotal point. She said while running may be in the name, the positive emotional aspect is the main priority in the program.
“The kids who come in with the lowest activity and confidence levels usually gain the most out of our program,” Siedow said. “We’re really looking to teach emotional skills and life skills, running is just the method we use to get those skills across and make it fun at the same time.”
Siedow said not all of the girls involved in the program are, or have to be, attending a public elementary school to be involved.
“I had a girl on my team who was home schooled,” Siedow said. “After the 10 weeks she decided to re-enter public school again after dealing with bullying and making new friends. We like to see changes like that in the girls.”
Currently Girls on the Run has 23 sites in five counties surrounding Eau Claire, including Chippewa Falls. The two locations where Chippewa Falls residents can participate in the program are Southview Elementary and Hillcrest Elementary. The program began in 2006 and is looking to expand into more rural areas of Wisconsin where not many after school programs outside of traditional athletics are offered.
Beyond the lessons, running and positive interactions with their peers, Siedow said she hoped the girls in the Girls on the Run program discover their inner worth and establish some new relationships coming out of the 2019 program.
“We hope they come out confident with some new friends,” Siedow said. “We hope that they will have a fun time and develop a lasting healthy skill of being active. We really don’t emphasize being the best runner, or being super-fast, we just want them to be their best selves.”
Registration for the 2019 Girls on the Run season is open now and will run through Monday, Feb. 18., with the season beginning the week of Feb. 24. Those looking to register, or looking for more information on the program, can visit the Girls on the Run of the Chippewa Valley Website at gotrchippewavalley.org.