Ten years of building stronger, more confident young women

Girls on the Run celebrates milestone with annual 5K run on May 19

BRATTLEBORO — Girls on the Run will host its 10th annual 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, May, 19, at Brattleboro Union High School.

The event, and the 10-week program that led up to it, are designed to encourage girls in grades 3 to 8 to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running.

Nancy Heydinger, the executive director of Girls on the Run in Southern Vermont, said she sees the program as a way to help girls at a pivotal age stay out of what she calls the “girl box.”

“The 'girl box' [is] a place where only girls who are a certain size with a certain beauty are popular, and where girls who want to fit in have to mold their bodies and their personalities to fit the requirements of the box.” she said.

“Girls on the Run was created to help girls stay out of the 'girl box' and recognize and appreciate their own strengths and beauty.”

Key components to the curriculum are community building, team-building and attitude, and building strong and supportive relationships - concepts that can prove particularly challenging to girls who feel victimized by their peers.

Last year's event drew nearly 1,500 participants. This year, organizers are hoping to top that.

For the past 10 weeks, girls in programs in schools across Windham County have met twice a week to engage in sessions that combine physical activities and “experiential learning activities.”

On the end-of-the-year survey from last year's program, many girls indicated that the run was one of the best parts of the 10-week curriculum.

“The noncompetitiveness of our program is what makes this all work,” Heydinger said. “All types of girls come to this program and, because it's noncompetitive, you see them form incredibly strong bonds.”

“We see girls encouraging each other to finish [the 5K], and many who have finished run back to bring in their teammates,” she added.

Heydinger said the goals of the program have taken hold here in southern Vermont.

“I'm thrilled at the passion with which Vermonters have embraced Girls on the Run,” Heydinger said. “It is important for our Vermont girls to own and embrace who they are and to recognize and celebrate their own uniqueness.”

“As we help them move toward this, they begin to feel more confident with their surroundings, peer group, and community,” she added. “If our teenagers are able to shift their focus from questioning their worth, they will be free to pursue other opportunities to grow and contribute to their local communities.”

Since 1996, when the organization was founded in North Carolina, organizers and school personnel have seen the effect that this program has had on pre-teen and teenage girls.

Stephanie Nichols, a volunteer coach, said she is always impressed by how the girls have grown in 10 weeks.

“The girls are fully self-expressed and eager to offer their thoughts because they know their peers support and encourage their sharing,” Nichols said.

“They have become very confident and embrace who they are and what they stand for, which is especially inspiring given their age and current pressure to fit in and be like everyone else.”

Councils of Girls on the Run can now be found in 47 states throughout the U.S., and several in Canada.

To register online for the 5K, visit by 9 p.m. on May 17. You can also register at the event from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

For more information, call 802-246-1476 or email [email protected].

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates