Despite its name, running isn't the only focus of Girls on the Run, a national program operated locally by the Whatcom Family YMCA.
But through exercise, girls in third- through fifth-grade develop the confidence they need to meet the challenges of adolescence, said Jen Gallant, Girls on the Run program coordinator at the Y in Bellingham.
"Obviously, the goal is to inspire fitness, and achieve something that can last a lifetime," Gallant said. "It's actually quite a movement, and very exciting to be a part of," Gallant said, noting that more than 200,000 girls are participating nationwide.
A spring Girls on the Run program is offered from April 8 through June 12 at 15 elementary schools around Whatcom County. Cost is $125, but no one will be turned way for lack of money, Gallant said.
In addition to running, girls learn a variety of age-appropriate lessons about the psychological pressures they'll face when they leave elementary school - such as proper nutrition, how to avoid gossip and stop bullying, and how to be a true friend. They'll also work on a community service project.
"We're teaching them to be their unique selves - that that's good enough - so they can go into middle school and feel confident, feel good about themselves," she said. "Be a strong, confident, speak-your-mind kind of girl. That's one of the lessons we teach."
Twice-weekly 90-minute after-school classes are taught by a pair of volunteer coaches, Gallant said. "We always get these amazing women to help out," Gallant said, adding that volunteers are still being accepted for the 10-week spring session.
During the weekly sessions, girls play games that involve running, rather than just running endless laps, Gallant said. Classes culminate with a June 8 5K run/walk along the Railroad Trail, starting and ending at the gazebo at Barkley Village Shopping Center.
"We just want them to complete the 5K and learn what it means to achieve something," she said.
Register for Girls on the Run at the Bellingham YMCA, 1256 N. State St. between Holly and Chestnut streets, of go online to whatcomymca.org. To apply for a scholarship, click on the Girls on the Run spring session link at the Y's home page, then click on "financial assistance" on the left. Call 360-733-8630 for more information.
For more information about Girls on the Run, go online to girlsontherun.org.
Suggest your ideas for family-friendly events or day trips to Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or firstname.lastname@example.org.