Girls on the Run is a national non-profit organization that uses running and physical activities to teach valuable life lessons. The local Hartford chapter is making big strides.
The mission of Girls on the Run is to inspire participants to be joyful, healthy, and confident. Designed for grades 3 through 8, the program teaches girls critical lessons during what can be a difficult time as a kid.
“Our curriculum is designed to specifically address some of the emotional challenges that girls are facing,” said Jessica Bell, the Executive Director of Girls on the Run Greater Hartford. “Dealing with friendships, building relationships, finding out who they are through these different stages in life.”
And learning skills they can carry with them well beyond Girls on the Run.
“Building their social and emotional tools to navigate their lives now and really to take with them beyond the program,” Bell said.
Through such a challenging year filled with so much change, Girls on the Run has been a constant for many participants.
“It has been very comforting. All these people are really really kind to me. They’re all super supportive and none of them have ever judged me,” said Emma Nascimento, a 10-year-old from Simsbury. “It’s a really safe place for me to come and be like 'sigh of relief.'”
Dhruvi Nihalani is also a participant from Simsbury.
“It’s taught me about supporting each other and that if you’re together and you’re issuing teamwork that it’s much better than doing it by yourself,” Nihalani said.
It’s not just the girls learning life lessons -- the program has had a profound impact on a first-time team coach too.
“It has been one of the most positive experiences honestly of my life,” said Coach Colleen Langlais. “They’ve taught me so much in terms of being confident and empowering each other and the enthusiasm and energy they have is just contagious.”
The end of their spring season culminates in just over a week with a virtual 5k that is open to all Connecticut residents and you don’t have to be a runner to join in on the run.
“You can run you can walk or bike -- really any physical event to get out in this beautiful weather this spring, celebrate along with our girls, and support girls on the run,” Bell said.
“I’m just super excited to see their achievements and to see them come across that finish line super proud of themselves for all they’ve overcome,” Langlais said.
“I just love running,” Nascimento said. “And I really feel like the 5k is going to be super fun and we’re all going to be super motivating and I really feel like that’s going to be the best part.”