Girls on the Run Is Celebrating 25 Years of Empowerment

co/ Girls on the Run

Key Takeaways

  • Girls on the Run will be celebrating its 25th anniversary on March 25th.
  • The event will be virtual, with celebrities and professional athletes as panelists and speakers.
  • There are over 12,000 programs nationwide tailoring to girls in third through eighth grade.

Girls on the Run is a national nonprofit organization focused on physical activity-based positive youth development. Over 25 years, it has worked with 2 million elementary- and middle-school girls across all 50 states to promote social, emotional, and physical skills. The program's goal is to build confidence and create positive life experiences for young girls through teamwork and accomplishment.

For its silver anniversary, Girls on the Run has had to pivot from the grand celebration that comes with such a momentous occasion. However, technology has made it possible to host an event capable of reaching every member—past, present, and future—from anywhere in the world.

The event will be hosted by Jess Ekstrom, the founder of Headbands for Hope, and the keynote speaker will be Hoda Kotb, co-anchor of NBC’s Today Show. It will take place at 7 p.m., and though it is free, attendees can purchase memorabilia.

COVID-19 Has Taken the Program Virtual 

Creating meaningful virtual programming still has been possible, with Girls on the Run adapting in the wake of COVID-19. Katarina Corda is the director of program development for Girls on the Run International, and she creates the curriculum for the lessons that are incorporated into programming.

“Despite COVID restrictions, our mission has remained the same. We're dedicated to inspiring girls to live joyful, healthy, confident lives. To do that, we've had to get a bit creative,” Corda says. She was able to create a hybrid program that followed the guidelines set forth by local government.

Katarina Corda, Girls on the Run International

Despite Covid restrictions, our mission has remained the same. We're dedicated to inspiring girls to live joyful, healthy, confident lives.

— Katarina Corda, Girls on the Run International

“We're an afterschool program, and we’re affiliated with schools. When they were shutting down, our sites were shutting down, too," Corda says. "We need to ensure that girls could still continue to have this safe space in this community to thrive and learn, so we created a program for our elementary school and middle school programs that could be virtual. That way, we're still on the ground having impact.”

Girls on the Run recently received survey results from fall 2020, and Corda was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. “We saw the same program impact in person or virtually," she said. "So that was great to hear, especially during this crisis, that girls were [still] being served. And we were able to create a safe space for girls to learn these really key skills and feel supported and make connections.”

Girls on the Run Is About More Than Just Running

Jenny Rexrode is a middle school principal, and to the students she coaches, she is an inspiration. “I've always been really passionate about anything having to do with girls and letting them know that they can do anything that they put their mind to. That was my mission, even when I was in middle school and in high school myself,” she says.

She leads the Girls on the Run program at Daniel Boone Middle School in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, during a time that girls need extra support. Let’s face it: middle school is hard. A runner herself, Rexrode wishes that the program had been around when she was growing up, since she sees the impact it makes on her students.

Jenny Rexrode, Coach & Principal

I want the girls to feel like they are able to do something that they didn't think was possible when they started the program.

— Jenny Rexrode, Coach & Principal

Her school program launched nearly five years ago at the request of one of the middle schoolers, and according to Rexrode, the benefits of the program go beyond fitness. “I want the girls to feel like they are able to do something that they didn't think was possible when they started the program," she says. "They don't think that they're going to be able to run a 5K, so they walk a lot during practice.”

She says that when they get really close to the race, they’re shocked at how much of the distance they can run. “They always beat their times during the actual 5K, and it's so awesome to see how proud of themselves and how they accomplished what they thought they weren’t able to do," Rexrode says.

What’s Next 

Since 1996, Girls on the Run has served over 2 million girls. Corda hopes to continue to grow the organization's commitment to IDEA. “That is our acronym for inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility, which has always been a bedrock of our programming," she says. "We're really excited to elevate that work, and we're planning to work with an external review organization to help us identify some ways to increase our girl voice in our design and development process.”

The goal? “Potentially developing a girl advisory board, and different stakeholder advisory groups," she says. "We just want to continue to ensure that we're evolving and elevating our work so that all girls across all intersecting social identities feel that this is a place for them, where they can show up as their full selves.” 

The 25th Anniversary event will be held on Thursday, March 25th at 7pm. For more information or to RSVP, click here

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