RUMFORD — Head coach for the Girls on the Run program, Kassie Elliott, said the girls in the program are always excited on the days when they run after school.
“They come to us and say, ‘Is this the day for Girls on the Run? This is the best day ever!’”
Elliott, a third-grade teacher at Rumford Elementary School, is a volunteer coach for the program, along with teachers Lacey Todd, Cassie Danylik and Lynn Newell.
Elliott said the after-school program is not only about running, but about gaining self-esteem. “There is a different theme every week helping them build their self-esteem,” she said.
Before the girls head outside to begin their activities they start inside with a lesson. Each lesson has a theme, and a recent one was empathy. The group talks about empathy and goes outside to stretch, play running games, and discuss different scenarios of how they can have empathy for each other.
The program’s curriculum helps the girls learn about different feelings and thoughts they may experience in their lives as 9- to 11-year-olds. Other subjects are “friendship, balance, healthy-choices, emotions and learning how to deal with that,” Elliott said.
“The girls get lap counters and set lap goals. They’re really working on encouraging each other to reach those goals, and also to reach their own goals,” she said.
Vivian Rice, a fifth grader participating in the program, said, Girls on the Run “makes us feel good. When I’m having a bad day I look forward to it; it makes me feel included.”
“We run at every practice and our goal is to run a 5k at the end of the season in November,” Elliott said. On Nov. 13 the Rumford Elementary School girls’ team will meet with other Girls on the Run teams to run a 5k at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.
“Whether we accomplish that goal by running, walking or skipping, having that accomplishment and doing it together, that’s a huge part of the program. And we have fun,” she said.
At Rumford Elementary School the program is only for girls in third through fifth grades, but the organization also has a program named Heart & Sole for girls in sixth through eighth grades. This year at Rumford 27 girls signed up for the program and the school ran a lottery to pick a maximum 15 girls.
Girls on the Run is a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and started in Portland, Maine in 2012. In Maine, the organization began with 37 participants and it now has 1,000.