Character Development Program Off To A Running Start in Mt. Olive
by Cheryl Conway
Through positive energy, a group of girls of Mt. Olive recently completed their first 5K and are more confident in overcoming hurdles that may come their way.
These girls participated in Girls on the Run, a nationally known program that was offered for the first time by Mt. Olive Recreation. Seven girls in grades third through fifth recently completed the first session which was held for ten weeks from April through June at Turkey Brook Park in Budd Lake.
The program taught positive lessons to the young participants, making them stronger emotionally, socially and physically.
“It’s a great way for girls to learn about the importance of being healthy inside and out,” says Carmin Mangone of Flanders, one of the coaches for Girls on the Run. “We simply ask them to have fun, do their best and be themselves. And I think the last part was one of the most important because it’s about building confident young women and letting them know they can do anything.”
That last part was to compete in a regional 5K run against hundreds of other girls their age. Hosted by the Jaycees, the 5K- was held Sat., June 7 in Florham Park.
“Most ran the whole way but some took some breaks to walk,” says Mangone, one of five coaches in the Mt.Olive program. “I was very proud of all of their accomplishments. They did a great job! None had ever done a 5K before, they were all very proud of themselves.”
“Of course they benefited physically by running, but more importantly I hope they got many life lessons out of it,” says Mangone.
Besides training their bodies to compete in a 5K race, participants engaged in a life-changing, character development program that will empower them in years to come, building their self-esteem and leadership skills.
Mangone says, “We had 20 different lessons, including what it means to be a girl on the run (positive energy); learning about different uncomfortable and comfortable emotions (understanding that there are no bad emotions but rather uncomfortable); bullying; the importance of good nutrition; how to deal with conflict; the importance of community. A lot of important topics that girls of this age (grades 3-5) are just learning to deal with.”
Coaches for the program included three parents and two local women “that all loved the idea of being involved with the program and wanted to help out the girls in their community,” says Mangone.
One of the challenges coaches faced was trying to get the girls to open up and express their thoughts and emotions, explains Mangone. “Some just wanted to do the running but the coaches kept everything fun and light.”
In addition to running and character-development lessons, the girls participated in a fundraiser. They decided to raise money and supplies for Eleventh Hour Rescue in Flanders.
“We set up shop outside of Petsmart one Saturday morning for three hours and collected donations in the form of supplies and cash,” explains Mangone. The girls voted unanimously to raise money for this charity from a list of five different charities, explains Mangone.
Established in 1998 as a running program that would empower girls, Girls on the Run consists of more than 140 chapters throughout the United States and Canada. The program came to NJ in 2001, and in MorrisCounty shortly after. The NJ East Chapter consists of about 680 girls in Union, Essex and Morris counties. InMorris County, 10 towns now participate in Girls on the Run with more than 200 girls currently enrolled.
A sister program, Girls on Track, for girls in grades sixth through eighth, also exists. Laura Donath of New Providence, Morris County director of Girls on the Run, says she wants to get off the ground first with Girls on the Run and maybe form Girls on Track in the near future if there is an interest
Cost to participate is $185 for the ten week session. Scholarships are offered through monies raised by fundraising. The fall session is set for September.
For more information or to register, go to www.girlsontherunnj.org; or contact Laura Donath atLaura@girlsontherunnj.org