Three years ago, Mesa’s Shea Freye learned about a program she could not ignore.
A friend of the now 37-year-old mom told her about Girls on the Run, which works to create self-esteem, confidence and positive social development in girls while promoting a healthy lifestyle.
“Once I heard about it, I absolutely could not not do it. It’s an amazing program,” she said.
It’s not that Shea was an avid runner, or even an athlete. But with a young daughter at home, the program appealed to the mom because of its message of self worth.
Girls on the Run started in the late 1990s when one woman designed a curriculum to help young women recognize their potential. In 2000, it became a nonprofit organization.
“Councils” are located around North America that help clubs that form.
When Shea heard about Girls on the Run, her daughter, Addison, was only in second grade — one year younger than the age requirement to participate at Mesa’s Franklin Northeast. But Shea decided to coach anyway. And Addison came along for every session.
After all, Addison inspired her mom to join.
“For girls, it’s really hard today,” Shea said, noting the amount of images children receive through social media. The messages of “personal respect” and “being true to themselves,” hit home.
“I could go on and on and on about what an amazing program it is,” she said.
Two programs are offered: Girls on the Run for girls in third through fifth grade and Girls on Track for girls in sixth through eighth grade.
It’s a bi-weekly commitment for about three months in either the fall or spring, depending on when clubs decide to operate. During each session, the girls do run. But they also learn about how to accept and think better of themselves, how to get rid of “negative self talk” and how to embrace their own goals and dreams.
As long as they don’t miss more than three practices, the girls culminate each season by running a 5K.
Shea and Addison ran in the last one with 600 participants in Tempe.
“It’s so inspiring. It’s the coolest thing ever. Just to go there and see it and seeing those little girls running across the finish line with their arms up. Just talking about it makes me shed a tear,” Shea said, while remembering the event. “They love it. Nobody can take it from them.”
Besides hearing the meaningful lessons, Addison has really taken to the physical activity part of the club, Shea said. Now 9 years old, Addison was inspired by watching her dad complete last year and has decided to try the 1.4-mile swim to Alcatraz herself in April. She started swimming with clubs this past summer and is in the water five days a week.
Addison is also preparing for a children’s triathlon.
“I think for her it really opened her eyes to what she could achieve and gave her an outlet,” she said.
For information on the organization, see gotrmc.org.
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