by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
May 4, 2007
GIRLS ON THE RUN
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If ever I were in the right place at the right time to fill my heart with joy, my eyes with the kind of tears that well up then flow unbidden over my face now smiling so broadly that words can not get through my lips, it was last Saturday morning.
I had never heard of the organization, Girls on the Run, so I was surprised to find a well-organized 5K run arranged for girls ages 8 to 11. We drove the 10 miles from home, granddaughter Kelsey Yurek wearing her light blue T-shirt and white shorts, hair in a pony tail, and running shoes laced snugly for the run ahead of her.
There is no question that team sports are encouraged in elementary school but unlike her school in Omaha, her school here in North Carolina did not offer volley ball. Therein lies the age old question: what is there, besides cheerleading, being offered to young girls engendering fitness as well as social interaction? Enter Girls on the Run.
The mission statement for Girls on the Run says is "a non-profit prevention program that encourages preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running."
From what I could see and hear standing around the starting line is that Girls on the Run addresses more than training to run a race; it's an organization devoted to all facets of young girls' development - from the physical and emotional to the social interaction.
Molly Barker, the group's founder, was on hand to cheer for the young athletes and sign copies of her book on health, fitness and the organization. Those girls who didn't buy a copy were pleased to put forth a shoulder for Molly's autograph on their T-shirts.
At first glance I thought the 5K race was strictly regional. It appeared Molly Barker had a good idea and was bringing it to her own home town. How wrong I was! Molly Barker is no stranger to running having been four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete and is now considered a visionary in handling adolescent issues. She teaches, counsels, researches and writes on the subject, and her 120 Girls on the Run Councils across Canada and the United States are designed to support her efforts with local volunteers serving as role models in after-school programs intended to train and coach the girls. The program actually did start in North Carolina, thus my assumption that it was only here and not further than our borders
The girls took off on time at the "Ready, Set, Go" shouted from the police car taking the lead. We expected a 30-minute or so wait at the finish line as the parade of running girls rounded the curve for their run into and around a sub-division.
While we waited, a local disk jockey played popular music and a costumed horse meandered about teasing the little brothers and sisters out for the morning's race. The day was beautiful, the breeze was welcome, the ground was dry and the huge trees offered shade.
The loudspeaker alerted us to the first runners coming around the bend and told us to cheer them toward the finish line. My daughter said: "Is that Kelsey? Oh, my God, it's Kelsey! It is Kelsey."
And then we saw Kelsey. This little smiling and red-faced girl melted my heart, brought forth those tears I mentioned earlier, and sent my soul soaring.
Kelsey was not only in the lead, about to cross through the ribbon at the finish line, but she had her friend, Morgan Garrett, by the hand leading her along with her, winning by barely a hair. Now that was a sporting event!
"Way to go, Kelsey."