When the crowd of athletes line up for the annual Turkey on the Run fundraiser at Rotary Park in Wenatchee this morning, fifth-grader Abby Simmons and 24 other young girls from Sunnyslope and Mission View Elementary will be easy to spot in their dark blue "Girls on the Run" t-shirts.
These students have completed a 10-week experience-based program that gives them skills that helps them learn how to be unique individuals who are confident, self assured and resistant to the pressures that often derail kids these days.
Simmons admits to being a little bit nervous about the 5-k run, but she'll have her mother Monica as her running buddy during the event. When asked whether her mom was ready for it, she just laughed.
The Sunnyslope student said the program has had a big impact on her confidence level and also has helped her to love running. Ten weeks ago when the program started, she didn't much like running but she says she's hooked and wants to make it a part of her regular activity.
Jane Davis, who recently completed an ultra-marathon in Africa and who also was scheduled for the New York Marathon but ended up helping out Hurricane Sandy survivors instead, said the change that happens to youngsters in this program is amazing. They typically discover that "wow, I can do anything now," she said.
Columbia Valley Community Health was instrumental in bringing this nationally-recognized program to the community. Marlen Mendez, CVCH's outreach supervisor, said the program has been offered in Chelan and Manson for the last five years with great success and recently was introduced to the Wenatchee Valley. There are plans to expand to other elementary schools in the valley.
Running is just one aspect of Girls on the Run. The real benefit is that it helps them develop the "coping mechanisms they'll need to be the strong, confident women of tomorrow.
At the Turkey on the Run event that starts at 9 a.m. at Rotary Park in Wenatchee, look for the sea of young girls with blue t-shirts and the out-of-breath running buddies who accompany them.
If you'd like to see my interview with Simmons, Mendez and Davis, please log into our website (wenatcheeworld.com) and click on videos.