Source: North Jersey.com
With the wind in their hair and the trails of Verona Park at their feet, local girls will have the chance to improve their physical and emotional health all at once.
Girls on the Run, a nonprofit organization established in 1996, returned to Verona for its fifth season in April for girls in third through fifth grade. The program teaches “life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games,” according to its website.
Lori Kapferer, director of community relations with Girls on the Run, said the curriculum includes lessons on teamwork, friendship, anti-bullying, community service and more.
“The first lesson is all about helping the girls to see that they have unique things to offer,” noted Kapferer, “but also recognizing they have their own contexts and experiences and likes, and that may be different than the other girls on the team, and that’s OK.”
Verona Park lends itself well to running and is a “beautiful” spot, said Kapferer. The Verona site is one of 20 throughout Essex County, according to Camilla Nichols-Uhler, Essex director for Girls on the Run.
Girls on the run members huddle up during a meeting
Girls on the run members huddle up during a meeting at Verona Park in autumn 2016. (Photo: Courtesy of Camilla Nichols-Uhler)
The season runs for 10 weeks, with the first date set for April 5. The girls meet twice per week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Each day concludes with a run, with the goal set for a 5K at the end of the season.
One of Verona’s current volunteer coaches, now in high school, participated in Girls in the Run when she was younger and felt compelled to stay involved, according to Nichols-Uhler.
“The girls leave so happy and much more confident when they’re leaving and empowered,” she said. “That is really our goal, that they’ll leave feeling empowered.”
Girls on the Run surpassed its 1 millionth student in 2015 and has more than 100,000 volunteers nationally. Essex County has 95 volunteers, Nichols-Uhler said. Kapferer said she hoped the lessons the girls learn at a young age with Girls on the Run will serve them will in their futures.
“For many of these girls when they cross the finish line at the end of the season, they’re able to see that the hard work they put in the season [paid off],” she said. “They’re able to accomplish something they maybe didn’t see was possible. We hope they come back to that moment of realization that, if they work hard, they can do it.”
The Verona team still has spots available, and interested runners can still join after the first meeting. To register or for more information, visit GirlsOnTheRunNJ.org.