When 10-year-old Senna Ward from Susquehanna Township first came to Girls on the Run, she feared asthma would hold her back. But it wasn't long before Senna found her crotch.
"I just started running and felt a lot more confident because a lot of people were cheering us all on," she said.
Her mother Rene says it was amazing to watch her daughter transform.
"She didn't think she could run or jog 3 miles at all, until the end of the program she saw her encouragement and encouragement to her friends," said Rene. "It was just an amazing process to see them out there practicing their 5K to the big 5K."
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That's what Girls on the Run is all about. But the program goes far beyond the physical.
"Girls on the Run is an after-school program that focuses on the social, emotional and physical health of girls from third through eighth grades," said Gillian Byerly, director of the council.
Byerly says girls in this age group struggle a lot. Fifty percent of them experience bullying. Self-esteem and relationships are sometimes lacking.
"You learn to deal with peer pressure," Byerly said. "You learn to stand up for yourself and others."
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The girls build up to 3 miles that they can run with a chosen buddy at the end of the program, but along the way the focus is more on friendship than fitness.
"They'll run, they'll run, they'll skip, but they'll cross that line because they know they've achieved something that in many cases they didn't think was possible in the beginning," said Byerly.
Rene says Girls on the Run changed their daughter for the better.
"We hear a lot about mean girls and things that go on in schools, and this is an opportunity for your daughter to hear encouragement and positivity from other women and girls," she said. "And that's always a good thing."
This year, the exercises will be held in person or virtually, depending on the level of comfort. And instead of one big 5 km event at the end, there will be several smaller events. For more information on Girls on the Run, including how to register, click here.