In 1996, Molly Barker wanted to give girls the tools necessary to help them navigate through the challenges of adolescence and chart their course to healthy lives as adults. She started with 13 girls in Charlotte, North Carolina using a curriculum in which the main tool was running. The organization that resulted, Girls on the Run, now serves 120,000 girls a year in 170 branches all over the country.
Girls on the Run St. Louis began ten years ago when a local mom read about Molly Barker in Runner’s World Magazine. The original 20 participants meeting on a park bench have mushroomed to 3,600 girls at 160 sites in 19 counties in the St. Louis region.
Girls on the Run serves girls from 3rd through 8th grade. The curriculum is designed to help girls increase levels of self-awareness, learning team building so that they can surround themselves with people who will enhance their lives rather than provide negative influences and finally, to help them design and implement their own community impact project and become a change maker. The culmination of the 20 week program is the successful completion of a 5K run.
Courtney Berg is the Executive Director of Girls on the Run St. Louis. She is especially proud of the wider impact of the organization as each girl takes what she has learned back home. “What we see,” Berg said,“ is this wonderful sort of systems effect where you have the drop in the pond and it ripples out so you impact that girl but she is taking those messages home to her family and impacting her family and changing her family that is going to impact the community. We hear these amazing stories coming from schools where the entire school community will suddenly say, ‘gosh, we need to make some changes in our community in how we are taking care of ourselves physically and emotionally.'”
Washington University’s Brown School of Social Work assists Girls on the Run St. Louis by providing interns and doing research. Assistant Professor of Public Health Amy Eyler has done surveys for the organization. Last year she surveyed the satisfaction of parents of participation and this year surveyed the participants themselves and got positive results in both cases.
Molly Barker, Courtney Berg and Any Eyler were Don Marsh’s guests on “St. Louis on the Air” to talk about the history, the curriculum and outcomes of Girls on the Run, nationally and in St. Louis.
Girls on the Run 5K Downtown St. Louis Run
Saturday, May 11, 2013, 8:00 a.m.