Girls on the Run, a youth development program for elementary and middle school girls is celebrating its 10th year in Charlotte County.

Program chairperson for the program in Southwest Florida, Kim Amontree describes the program as a positive youth development program that pairs lessons of empowerment and self-esteem with running.

“It uses running to teach girls life lessons,” Amontree said. “We teach them to think about what our bodies can do, rather than what they can’t do.”

The season runs for 10 weeks, and girls practice twice a week on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s after school. First, the girls participate in a lesson, before going outside to run and tie in what they learned.

At each practice, there are a minimum of two coaches and the coaches take turns running with the girls.

“As a coach, they look to you as a role model, someone outside of mom,” Amontree said.

Those who might not be comfortable running are encouraged to walk, or go at whatever pace they feel comfortable.

Some of the lessons they work on include helping girls discover who they are, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and understanding how the girls can support each other.

Next, they look at how they can also take the lessons learned at practice into the community to help others, for example, maybe mom, their bus driver, or whoever might benefit.

The lesson plans are provided by the organization Girls on the Run International, which was developed by childhood development experts.

The program is currently offered in five elementary schools in Charlotte County: Deep Creek, Liberty, Meadow Park, Peace River, Myakka River, and one middle school. The program is also in one middle school, Punta Gorda Middle. The club at the middle school level is called “Heart and Sole.” In DeSoto County, two elementary schools participate in Girls on the Run: West and Nocatee.

“I love doing it at the middle school level, I feel that’s where the most value is,” Amontree said.

The program teaches that there’s five areas of “the girl wheel”: body, heart, spirit, brain, and social, and the aim is for them to be in balance, Amontree explained.

Registration for the fall season is open until Friday, Sept. 13. Cost of registration is $110 and includes participation in the 5K, water bottle and a T-shirt.

Amontree said they will never turn a girl away for an inability to pay. When registering, there is an option to select ‘financial assistance needed’ and the registration fee will adjust based on household income.

To register, visit gotrswfl.org and select the school you wish to register for.

The local chapter of Girls on the Run will be looking for volunteers for the 5K committee. For more information or if you’re interested, contact program coordinator Kim Amontree at 941-456-8501 or Kim.amontree@girlsontherun.org.

Email: brianna.kwasnik@yoursun.com

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