Girls on the Run: At the finish line

dwalker@fortmilltimes.comApril 24, 2013 

— Girls on the Run Tri County South Carolina will have a noncompetitive 5K run or walk with a celebration open to the community at 2 p.m. April 28 at the Baxter Community Center.

It is the final event in the 10-week Girls on the Run after-school program that teaches healthy habits and lifelong wellness to girls in grades three to eight. Girls on the Run is expecting over 400 girls, but the Tri County chapter of the nonprofit group had much more humble beginnings.

“We started in the fall of 2003, supported by Leroy Springs Recreation Complex, a grant from the Springs Close Foundation and a willing principal at Springfield Elementary,” said Lindy Morris, director of the chapter.

Morris said she been involved with Girls on the Run in Charlotte at the Harris YMCA, and her daughter Holly was participating. Friends started asking about GOTR, she said, and if it was available in Fort Mill.

Morris she was working at the Harris YMCA, and Girls on the Run founder Molly Barker and she coached a test adult program. “I asked her about starting a program in the Fort Mill area, and from that moment on, GOTR Tri County had a life of its own,” she said.

“Our first group was 20 girls coached by three of us at Springfield Elementary in the fall of 2003. Last fall, we served 605 girls at 42 sites thanks to the dedication of 122 volunteer coaches,” she said.

Morris said the growth has been due to the quality of the program and volunteers.

“Girls on the Run offers something unique in that we are a transformational learning program for girls in third to eighth grade,” she said. “We teach life skills through dynamic, conversation-based lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5K running event.”

This fall, Girls on the Run Tri County will be celebrating its 10th year.

“It is so amazing to watch the girls as they go throughout the season learning new skills, gaining confidence, believing in themselves,” Morris said. “The most precious memories are made each season at the 5k events.

Morris said Barker “once told me to make sure and stand about 100 yards from the finish line, just to watch the girls’ faces, as they realize they are going to finish the race.”

Anyone in the community is invited to the event, and 42 chapters of girls will be representing York, Chester and Lancaster counties.

“As we go into our 10th year of serving the girls of the Tri County area, we are looking to expand to more sites so that any girl who wants to be a ‘Girl on the Run’ will have the opportunity to do so,” Morris said.

She said coaches are the key to its success.

“Without our coaches we would have no program, so we are always looking for amazing women and men who are willing to step up and serve. Having been a coach myself for so many years, I can attest to the fact that it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done,” Morris said.

Ashley Hudgins is a high school senior who was a member of Girls on the Run in 2004 and 2005. “The best thing about it is it makes you feel good all the way around,” Hudgins said. “I gained confidence and made new friends while getting physically fit.”

Lauren Fitzloff also participated in Girls on the Run in 2005. “When we did our 5K, it was raining and it was hard but we still all got through it,” she said. “That’s the main thing I remember.”

Girls on the Run Tri County aims to inform the community of its mission through the 5K celebration, and maybe garner volunteers and participants. Those who attend will most likely find Morris at the finish line, watching the girls as they complete their course.

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