Kathy Crain is executive director of Girls on the Run Rhode Island, a nonprofit independent council of Girls on the Run International, a program that encourages healthy lifestyles among preteen girls.
The nonprofit, founded in 2011, is holding a 10k, 5k, and family fun run event June 1 at the Temple to Music at Roger Williams Park.
The after-school program for girls aged 8-13 combines training for a 3.1-mile running event with workouts meant to promote positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual, and physical development.
PBN: What originally made you want to open a Girls on the Run Chapter here?
CRAIN: Before I became involved, a group of women started the Rhode Island chapter after recognizing the absence of, and need for, such a program. While other after-school activities focus on one specific interest like dance, theater, sports, or academics, Girls on the Run is an a program that integrates social, emotional, and physical well-being into a fun, interactive experience that emphasizes the importance of self-worth.
PBN: Why do you think girls of this age group, 8-13, might need special motivation to develop healthy lifestyles?
CRAIN: Girls in this particular age group are at an impressionable, transitional time in their young lives. Studies suggest that self esteem begins to drop during this phase, partially because young girls begin to judge their own self-worth through the eyes of others.
There are so many external influences that can affect how a young girl views herself and those around her. It is critical that we give these young girls the tools and the voice they need to make smart, healthy choices for themselves and others.
PBN: What psychological benefits do these girls see from this program?
CRAIN: The benefits are numerous. Girls who participate in Girls on the Run discuss such important topics as redefining beauty, the dangers of gossip, and how to handle peer pressure and bullies. They also learn to celebrate themselves for their own unique, individual characteristics whiel embracing the individuality of those around them. These frank, open discussions often provide a platform from which girls are allowed to express themselves without fear of ridicule, which in turn leads to increased self-confidence and strength, as well as increased empathy and compassion for others.
PBN: How does the program work, exactly?
CRAIN: Girls on the Run provides two 10-week sessions per year, one during spring and one during fall. We run our program at various sites through Rhode Island. This spring, we are offering [it] at eight sites, serving more than 100 girls. Each site has two coaches who meet twice a week with a team of 15 girls. Each lesson tackles an important topic [and] always involves discussions, interactive activities and some physical activity. The season culminates with a state-wide 5K, which is not meant to be a competition but more of a celebration.
PBN: What do you most want the girls to take away from their experience?
CRAIN: I want girls to believe in the beauty and strength that each of us carries within us. I hope that every girl who participates becomes empowered by the message of Girls on the Run, which is that we all should be joyful, healthy, and confident.