Photograph By Jason Minto
Caroline Klinger of Newark is a Girls on the Run veteran. Now a rising sophomore at Padua Academy, the 15-year-old participated in Girls on the Run sessions when she was in third, fourth and fifth grades. It’s so much more than a running program, she says. “You learn life lessons and about a healthy lifestyle,” she says. “It teaches you to be a good person.”
In September, Girls on the Run Delaware, a nonprofit, is celebrating its first decade of helping girls in the early grades develop physically, emotionally and socially. (Girls in grades sixth through eighth can participate in a similar program, Heart & Sole, formerly called Girls on Track.)
“They learn how to be confident in their own skin and to use their voices to stand up for what they believe in,” says Girls on the Run executive editor Kim Chitty. “We look at the girls as whole individuals.”
Last year, 1,500 girls participated in teams of up to 15 members, led by trained coaches. They met twice a week at schools, Ys and community centers throughout the state.
The 10-week running program, held in the fall and spring, is interlaced with guided conversations about topics like gossip, bullying and healthy eating. There’s a community-service component as well.
Each session culminates in a 5K (3.1 miles) race. Clara Kelly, 11, who will be attending Red Lion Christian Academy as a sixth grader, remembers her first race. “It was really a new experience. I didn’t know what to expect,” she says. “When I got there, it was fun.”
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Girls on the Run will hold a 5K race at the Wilmington Riverfront on Nov. 14 for girls from New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties. The races are always festive, says Jane Castle, development director for Girls on the Run. “They all come together and celebrate the season’s success,” she says. “The girls get so much out of it.”