ELKHART — A running program to help girls through their formative years was developed in this area by a mother who saw potential in the effort for her own daughter. 

Amy Cooper Collier, executive director for Girls on the Run of Michiana, brought the nationwide program to this area.

“I have a 12-year-old daughter and I knew this was something I wanted for her – and it turns out 4,500 other girls’ moms wanted it too,” she said. 

Girls on the Run celebrated 10 years in the Michiana area with a party at High Dive Park over the weekend. The 10-week, after-school program is geared at helping girls in third through eighth grade discover their potential.

“My favorite thing about Girls on the Run is that it teaches me to be positive and choose my attitude every day,” said third-grader Mia, who was asked by organizers not to use her last name. “I have learned how to make healthy choices for my body and life.”

The national research-based curriculum is divided into three sections, the first of which focuses on the girl and her own self-image.

“It helps her to realize that she is the boss of her own brain and she can choose positive or negative self talk and how she thinks about herself. She can active her own personal power to achieve her goals and dreams,” Cooper Collier said. 

The second part focuses on interpersonal relationships and choosing good friends.

“Girls on the Run has made a difference in my life because it teaches us to think about others and how we are all unique. I have learned how to deal with hard situations like bullying and peer pressure.” third-grader Julia said.

The third section focuses on the larger community and producing a community impact project to give back to the local community.

“We do fun running games and activities that incorporate lessons in,” she said. “Sometimes girls are in an especially vulnerable place because we have so many things that tell us that our worth is determined entirely by how we look.”

The program culminates in a noncompetitive 5-kilometer run.

Michiana’s chapter serves Marshall, St. Joe, Kosciusko, Elkhart and Fulton counties and covers nearly 60 schools, 13 of which are in Elkhart County.

Of the 1,050 girls in the program chapter wide, 230 are from Elkhart County. In it’s 10 years, organizers have taught over 4,500 girls and provide scholarships for over 60 percent of girls so they can afford to join in the program.

“It’s important that every girl can recognize her limitless potential and be free to boldly pursue her dreams,” Cooper Collier said.

In addition to the open house celebration over the weekend, organizers plan to mark the 10-year celebration by sharing stories for the next 10 months on social media, video and blogs. The “Power of 10” presentations will feature presentations from many of those involved in the program, and this month, will feature founding members discussing how Girls on the Run began.

Girls on the Run, established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina, is always looking for mentor coaches to get involved in their programs. Running experience is not necessary. 

More information is available at www.girlsontherunmichiana.org

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