It started with a conversation among friends. Lesley Osborn, an avid runner and mother of two Darien children, was inspired to introduce her friends to a program for young girls that combined running and self-esteem exercises. Osborn invited several friends to coffee at her home so that she could introduce them to a program called Girls on the Run. Osborn hoped that the conversation would inspire her friends, as it had inspired her, and maybe it could be brought to Darien Schools.
“Two of my college friends, and former running buddies, became Girls on the Run coaches in Charlotte and Chicago,” Osborn said. “When they told me about the program and how popular it was in their areas, it really spoke to me… After experiencing firsthand the pressures of growing up in Fairfield County, and now being a parent to an 8-year-old daughter myself, I felt compelled to learn more about the program. Running has always been an uplifting outlet for me and I’m very excited to combine my love of running and exercise with lessons about self-esteem and a healthy outlook for girls.”
During coffee with her friends, Osborn said she and a representative from Girls on the Run provided an abundance of information, pictures and proof that the program was positively changing the lives of girls across the county. As things wrapped up, three other women from Darien — Janeen Eckert, Maija Judelson and Millyn Gaaserud — approached Osborn and together they agreed to bring the program to Darien schools.
Girls on the Run was founded in 1996 by Molly Barker in Charlotte, N.C. The pilot program started with just 13 girls. Today, it is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and serves thousands of girls annually in over 200 cities across the U.S. and Canada. In 2011, the organization worked with 99,962 girls with the help of over 41,000 volunteers. This year, Girls on the Run established it’s 200th group, known within the organization as “councils”.
The organization is dedicated to encouraging girls from grades 3-8 to develop self-respect and a healthy lifestyle through running. Designed as an after-school program, the curriculum attempts to address all aspects of girls’ development — physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual — and ultimately seeks to use conversation-based lessons and running games to inspire confidence, happiness and health. Many program participants believe that the the organization’s tagline says it all — “Learn. Dream. Live. Run.”
“Running has always given me a great sense of accomplishment,” Judelson said. “I remember when I started running and thought about running longer distances. I often wondered if I could do it. However, I realized over time that I can do it and that feeling of confidence and achievement has carried over into other aspects of my life.”
Since Lesley Osborn and Janeen Eckert have children attending the Pear Tree Point School and Maija Judelson and Millyn Gaaserud have children at Tokeneke School, the women agreed that these two schools should be their primary focus. The four women scheduled numerous meetings with the principals and Parent Teacher Organizations while simultaneously getting certified as coaches with the Girls on the Run program so that they would be prepared to implement the curriculum.
Now, after months of hard work, planning and discussion, Girls on the Run will arrive this September at Pear Tree Point and Tokeneke.
“We are very pleased to offer Girls on the Run as a new enrichment offering at Pear Tree Point School thanks to the initiative of parents Lesley Osborn and Janeen Eckert,” said David Trigaux, headmaster of Pear Tree Point. “Healthy living, a balanced life and positive attitudes are key to helping children develop their potential. We are glad that our students will have a chance to participate in this worthwhile program that embodies these values.”
Girls who participate in the program can expect to meet twice a week in small teams for a total of 10 weeks. Each session will be split into games and discussion that will address three issues: understanding ourselves, valuing relationships and teamwork, and understanding how we connect with and shape the world at large. Some of the topics the groups will address include, Celebrating and Sharing our Strengths, Beware of Bullies, the Importance of Slowing Down, Gossiping Hurts Everyone, and Standing up to Peer Pressure.
In addition to the bi-weekly meetings, program participants will take part in a community service activity together, and at the conclusion of the 10-week program will also run a 5-K event together.
Registration for Girls on the Run began on the first day of school — Monday, Aug. 27. Team meetings officially begin the week of Sept. 17.
More info: Lesley Osborn, osbornL@mac.com, Maija Judelson email@example.com, or visit GirlsOnTheRun.org