Jenny began volunteering in the school and implementing wellness into the school environment when her youngest daughter started attending elementary school. She has organized numerous wellness activities, events, and programs in the school with the support of the principal and staff. She started the Healthy Pirates Committee on the PTO board that helped her continue to improve the school health scores and start the school Youth Wellness Council. She continues to facilitate youth wellness leaders and recruit parents in West Virginia schools. This lead to working with Try This WV and starting a community wellness council to “connect the dots of wellness” for her own community by creating the WV Parents Action for Wellness Network and website.
Barboursville Community Wellness Council/Barboursville Middle School
How to Start a Girls on the Run Council
Problem: Girls face social pressures and conflicting messages about how they should act and who they should be. Studies show that by adolescence, girls’ confidence drops about twice as much as boys’. Friendships become more complicated and challenging, girls’ perception of their academic ability declines, the likelihood of anxiety and depression increases and participation in physical activity plummets. Lessons are designed to build girls’ self-worth and help them feel greater confidence in who they are. Activities help girls recognize their personal strengths and teach them how to stand up for themselves and others.
Project Description: This is a fabulous self-esteem and life skills program for girls in 3rd-8th grades. The middle school program is called Heart & Sole. it is a noncompetitive program. In fact, girls are only asked to keep moving whether that is walking, hopping, skipping, dancing or running to reach their goal of finishing a 5K.
Running is used to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness, and build confidence through accomplishment. Important social, psychological, and physical skills and abilities are developed and reinforced throughout the program. At each season’s conclusion, the girls and their running buddies complete a 5K running event which gives them a tangible sense of achievement as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals. The result—making the seemingly impossible, possible, and teaching girls that they can.
A GOTR season lasts 10 – 12 weeks. Each session includes character-building exercises (responding to bullying, being helpful to others, self-awareness, etc.). The girls learn stress reduction techniques, as well as walking/running skills.e
How the project got started:
Two parents who were involved together in a school PTO started the program after the first one was visiting and saw a Girls on the run 5K race in North Carolina. She was on the board of the local United Way and presented the idea of bringing the program to the area. She then asked the second parent who was very passionate about school wellness if she was interested in helping to getting the program to the area.
They received some seed money from a sub organization of the united Way and raised the rest of the funding to start the Cabell/Wayne County GOTR council by hosting a 5K race at the local park. With the connections they had with parents and teachers in their children’s school, they were able to get over 400 people to attend the 5K and raised well over the amount of money to go to national training and start the 501c3 council.
5 steps to start this project:
- Know who is in the community that can partner and become a sponsor with the council, especially hospitals or private practice medical professionals.
- Don’t work alone! Find a couple or more other parents or school staff to help start the program before you contact Girls on the Run International. You need to make sure there is an invested community.
- Survey the schools, parents, and community to see if the program is needed.
- Talk to someone who has worked with a nonprofit organization to understand how one operates.
- Create a steering committee of stakeholders in the community that would also like to see the program started.
How to start a group:
- To start a local group, you must first raise enough funds to file to be a non-profit, attend a national Girls on the Run Training and pay for the fee to become a Girls on the Run International Council.
- The fee is $7,500 to start a council, so, rather than starting your own, you may want to explore the possibility of affiliating with an existing council. There are three approved councils in West Virginia: One serves Cabell and Wayne Counties, another serves Northcentral West Virginia, and one serves Southern West Virginia (Mercer, McDowell, Mingo, so far).
- To file for nonprofit status, you will need to obtain an accountant who can assist you with this. It can sometimes take a few months for IRS approval, but if you pick up any sponsors as you are raising funds for the program, it will be back dated to your filing date.
- Annual local costs, including insurance, materials, race costs, Website maintenance, etc. have been estimated between $1,000 and $3500 on average, but there are many variables. Contact one of the existing councils for specifics. Click on “Search by state.”
- Each girl that participates receives a program package worth $80-$100.
- If you want to start another council in your part of the state, you may want to partner with two or more other counties.
- Each Council has secured sponsors – businesses and health care organizations – that help pay their yearly expenses. Think about what businesses might sponsor you in your area.
- You will need enough coaches to have at least two coaches present each of the sessions. Most programs have at least four coaches, since there will be weeks when a given coach can’t come.
- Each team is a maximum of 15-20 girls (2 coaches per 15 girls, 3 coaches per 20 girls)
- No girl is EVER turned away for financial reasons as long as there is room on their school team, but the fees are based on a sliding scale in some councils and a set fee in others. Some councils opt to do a lottery system since the program is first come first serve to make it fair.
- A school or other location with safe indoor and outdoor places for girls to run must agree to use of their facility for the program. Most GOTR programs in WV operate after school, based in a school building, often rent-free.
For more information:
What resources, videos, websites helped you put your project/strategy together?
How have you engaged partners in your strategy?
Parents, Grandparents, teachers/school staff, school administrators, high school/college students, and anyone in the community are invited to become a coach for Girls on the Run and mentor the girls.