For nine Flandreau Elementary girls, this fall’s Girls on the Run program has taught them more than exercise.
They’ve learned to work as a team, appreciate others and themselves for who they are and focus on a healthy lifestyle. Sunday, they participated in a celebratory 5K run at Yankton Trails Park in Sioux Falls. The program, affiliated with Embe in Sioux Falls and Girls on the Run International, is geared toward building confidence and a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.
“We’re a whole group, and we do a lot of really cool things,” said Amelia Pieper, who is 8 and a third grader. It’s her first year in Girls on the Run which meets after school twice a week and is open to girls in third through fifth grades. She likes sharing a healthy snack in a group and talking about positive ways to treat each other.
“They’re all my friends,” she said. “We treat each other equally, and I like that.”
While Pieper only “sort of” likes running, the girls are encouraged to do their best. For some that is running; for others, it’s a combination of running and walking, said Jen Headrick, a coach with the program. “Our goal is always to keep moving.”
Emma Keith, a 10-year-old fifth grade student, has been in the program for three years and likes the encouragement that comes from participating. She likes doing activities together, including the year-end community project of making positive posters to hang up around the school.
For Keith, that means messages such as, “You can do it,” and “Never give up.” She wants others to remember to try their best. “The next time maybe you can be even better,” she said.
Her classmate, Olivia Peters, 10, besides enjoying the friendships and activities, has learned to like running, too. “My favorite part is getting together and doing things together with the girls and being able to run and do daily fitness stuff,” she said.
Coaches for girls throughout the year along with Headrick were Allison Hamilton, Destiny Jorenby, Krista Reed and Aubrey Rose.