GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Girls on the Run, a 10-week program offered in northern Arizona from September to November, provides girls with an after school program. The program strives to teach girls the benefits of creating relationships and building self-confidence through planned lessons and running laps together.
At Grand Canyon School the girls meet twice a week.
"Our mission is to inspire girls to be healthy, joyful and confident using a fun experienced based curriculum that creatively integrates running," said Marica Martinic, director for Girls on the Run in Northern Arizona.
Martinic said the program strives to help prevent risky behaviors such as substance abuse and teen pregnancies.
"Our overall goal is to teach girls good habits, positive thinking, building good relationships, and self-confidence so they can go through life feeling good about themselves and treating others well," Martinic said.
The Girls on the Run curriculum is taught in third through fifth grade and sixth through eighth grade. Girls participating in the program at Grand Canyon are in third through fifth grade. During each meeting, the girls have a character-building lesson, followed by an activity or game and a chance to build their endurance while thinking about the lesson as they run laps.
Molly Barker founded Girls on the Run in 1996 in North Carolina as a 501c3 charitable organization. Offered as an after school program at the Grand Canyon in years past, the program was put on hold last year because a coach was not available. This year Kate Maragos is teaching the girls at Grand Canyon.
"We only had seven girls when we started and it went up to 11 just from the girls talking to each other and getting really excited about the program," Maragos said.
Lessons each week cover a variety of topics including self-confidence, bullying, peer pressure, body image, and relationships.
The program culminates at a 5k event offered to all Girls on the Run. The girls from Grand Canyon will gather for the run with all other Girls on the Run groups in the northern Arizona area.
Martinic anticipates 125 to 130 girls will attend the northern Arizona 5k. On the day of the event, the girls receive a 5k shirt and will be paired with a running buddy The running buddy runs the 5k with the girl to help encourage her and help her finish the run. The 5k is open to the community. The cost for the races are covered in the girl's initial fee for the program. Community runners pay $25, running buddies pay $20 and youths (under 12) pay $15. The 5k's are not timed. Girls on the Run said they want girls to do their best and finish the race.
Maragos said the Grand Canyon girls are very excited to run in the upcoming 5k taking place on Nov. 8 in Flagstaff.
"They're all very excited! We have our practice 5k and we put it in the school announcement for other kids in the school and parents and teachers to be able to come and support them and root them on and help encourage them," Maragos said.
As an after school program, Girls on the Run costs $175. The money provides supplies, training staff, curriculum materials, organizing the 5k runs, insurance and dues paid to the organization's headquarters in North Carolina. Scholarships are offered to girls who have free or reduced lunches. The program is free for girls on the free lunch scholarship. For girls with a reduced lunch scholarship the program is offered at 90 percent off.
"We don't turn anyone away," Martinic said. "If there's a girl who really wants to participate and her family doesn't qualify for free or reduced lunch or just can't afford it, we work with the family to make sure she can participate."
Girls on the Run is a North Country Healthcare program. North Country encourages health and well being through different outreach programs.
More information on Girls on the Run is available from Marica Martinic at (928) 522-9855 or at www.gotrna.org