Girls on the Run is a program utilizing a research-based curriculum that helps girls value themselves, teamwork, and relationships and to recognize the impacts they can have in the world. Girls on the Run International was founded in 1996 by Molly Barker with a goal to teach girls confidence, to empower them and to encourage physical activity. What started with 13 girls in North Carolina is now an organization with independent councils that serve more than 2 million girls across North America.
Girls on the Run International determined there was a need for this programming in Riverside and San Bernardino. In January 2020, under the leadership of Erin Munro and six founding board members, Girls on the Run Riverside received its 501(c)3 designation. The local council launched with 50 girls at five sites but had to quickly transition to a virtual platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now the organization is back to operating after-school programming and serving 250 girls. The organization’s programs include its signature offering, Girls on the Run, which serves grades 3-5. Volunteer coaches lead participants through lessons that blend exercise with life skills development. The program typically takes place twice a week for ten weeks.
“I am determined to make sure this experience is positive and that the girls have a healthy attitude toward exercise,” Munro said. “We encourage them to find their happy place whether that is to run, hop, skip or dance.”
Girls on the Run’s Heart & Sole program is available for middle school girls in grades 6-8. The program focuses on meeting the needs of girls of all abilities, working in a curriculum that addresses body, brain, heart, spirit and social connection. Heart & Sole strives to create a place where girls feel they belong while they strengthen their physical and emotional health. The program culminates with a 5K event which happens in conjunction with the organization’s sister council in Los Angeles.
Girls on the Run also teaches girls that they have a responsibility to be a part of their community, encouraging them to discover ways they can make a difference through community impact projects. So far, girls in the program participated in actions such as campus beautification projects at their schools and on a project at Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center.
“It teaches them the power and the impact they can have and to get outside of themselves,” Munro said. “The girls are surprised that they can do these things. The physical aspect is huge, but it is so much more than running.”
Recently, Girls on the Run received a grant from Youth Grantmakers through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The organization used this support to create a junior advisory board for high school students who want to remain involved and coach. The organization depends on funding to keep programming low-cost and provide participants with the equipment they need. Participants pay $185, but the programming expense is approximately $450 a girl. The organization also depends on volunteer coaches.
Girls on the Run will be expanding to serve San Bernardino County based on demand but will need more volunteers to meet this need. Two or more coaches work together to lead girls through the organization’s curriculum. Coaches are required to have a background check and are trained on how to implement programming.
Individuals interested in volunteering can fill out an interest form through the organization’s website. Parents and teachers interested in starting a team can also visit the website for more information.
“It’s an honor to lead and introduce Girls on the Run to our community,” Munro said. “The program has the potential to empower young girls at such a critical age of development.”
More information: https://www.gotrriverside.org/ or (951) 394-3141
This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, December 2022.
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