Girls on the Run has significant impact on young lives

Allentown, Pa. (Sunday February 8, 2015)

Participants in the fall 2014 Girls on the Run of Lehigh County 5K running/walking event.

Late last year, Girls on the Run of Lehigh County culminated its 2014 fall session, but the 5K event in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, also marked the conclusion of a year in which the program had a significant impact on program participants—and generated lots of support.

It even reduced television viewing!

Girls on the Run is a physical activity-based youth development program for girls in third through eighth grades, teaching life skills through interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5k running event each season.

“This fall is the first time we operated both Girls on the Run, which is for girls in third through fifth grades, and Girls on Track for sixth- through eighth-grade girls in the same season,” says Liz Fones, council director for the local program, which is sponsored and operated by Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries.

“We had approximately 80 program participants and 90 ‘running buddy’ volunteer mentors as well as 15 coaches and eight event volunteers for this event,” Fones says. Overall, fall participants in the Girls on Track program came from Broughal, Eyer, Harrison Morton, and South Mountain middle schools, while the season’s sites for the Girls on the Run program were at Jordan United Church of Christ and Saucon Valley Elementary School.

Two of the schools—South Mountain and Broughal—participated as part of a priority-school program funded by a grant from the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. The United Way grant of $16,667 represented a first-year distribution with three more grants, each $20,000, to be provided by United Way over the next three years, including one later in 2015.

“We are extremely grateful for United Way’s support,” says Fones. “This type of community support is vital to our ability to serve more and more girls from the area, some of whom have limited resources to participate in the program.” Other major local sponsors include the Women’s 5K Classic and Highmark.

Recent research by Girls on the Run International and the University of Minnesota found that the local program has had a positive impact on participants. In confidence, connection, and character, statistically significant increases in scores were found for girls who began a Girls on the Run program with scores lower than the sample mean, says Fones.

In addition, for all participants, the research showed a statistically significant increase in physical activity frequency on weekdays, weekends, and in total, while the number of hours per day of television-watching decreased significantly from pre- to post-season.

For further information, please contact:
William Swanger, M.A., APR
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications
Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries
(717) 795-0308