Despite the ominous skies and rain, they came in droves — 950 young girls, that is, in Grades 3 to 8, from 31 schools around Simcoe County. After all, come rain or shine, this past Saturday was a day for these girls to celebrate themselves.
Called Girls on the Run Celebration 5K, the event, held in Earl Rowe Provincial Park in Alliston, was the culmination of 10 weeks of personal discovery and growth for these pre-adolescents in the midst of one of the most insecure stages in life.
“It’s not competitive,” explains Ann Jackson, Girls on the Run council director for Simcoe County. “It’s just a reward for all their hard work.”
The hard work Jackson is referring to is the curriculum-based program, now in its eighth year in Canada, these girls took part in at their respective schools. The program takes place in other regions around the country, too.
“We conduct lessons on everything from body image and eating disorders to building self-esteem,” explains Jackson. The program also puts a huge emphasis on healthy living, with fun running activities scattered throughout the curriculum, the culmination of which is the annual 5 km celebration event.
Proceeds from the registration fees for the final run go to a different charity every year. And this year, they chose to give 10 per cent to Give Girls a Chance — a Canadian charity that provides educational opportunities to girls and young women at home and abroad — to benefit other girls who haven’t had the same opportunities as them.
Maxine Crook, who’s volunteered with the Give Girls a Chance since its inception seven years ago, is elated by the gesture. “These young girls decided they wanted to help other girls who weren’t as lucky as they are,” she says.
In a show of support, Crook made the drive from Toronto to Alliston for Saturday’s event to cheer on all the participants.
“If you want to do good and make a difference in this world, support a girl. The statistics show that you educate a girl, she educates her children and so on,” says Crook. “It’s quite amazing.”
Just before the run started, Jackson presented Crook with a $600 cheque.