More than 30 Sweet Briar students are putting their Thanksgiving break on hold so they can lend a hand at the Girls on the Run of Greater Lynchburg Celebration 5K. The College is hosting the race at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 on campus.
In August, Sweet Briar announced a new partnership with the local Girls on the Run council, which includes sharing sponsorship of the 5K race, providing the venue and volunteer support. Students answered the call despite having to alter their holiday plans.
“I think that students are willing to give their time to this event because they realize how many similarities exist between the missions of Girls on the Run and Sweet Briar,” says senior Hilary Bowie, a cross-country runner who previously volunteered and interned with the organization’s Kansas City council.
“Many [students] have even expressed the wish that this program had been available to them when they were at the Girls on the Run age. They see how setting an example for girls in this program pays off in the long run.”
Girls on the Run has chapters all over the United States and in Canada with the goal of “Educating and preparing girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living,” through a structured 12-week curriculum for girls ages 8 to 13. Locally, teams meet for lessons at schools and community centers throughout the Greater Lynchburg Council’s five counties and two cities, including Charlottesville. They’re held in the spring and fall, each season culminating in the New Balance Girls on the Run Celebration 5K Run/Walk.
Mary Hansen, director and co-founder of the local council expects more than 500 girls, parents, friends and volunteers will run in the race. She’s also hopeful the families living on and near Sweet Briar’s campus will join the fun.
Hansen actively seeks greater involvement of college-age volunteers and mentors, making the partnership with Sweet Briar an especially good fit.
“The young girls really enjoy having contact with the college students. They’re much more fun than we parents,” she says, though she is serious about finding upperclasswomen and recent graduates who are older than 21 to coach the teams. The younger women relate to the girls in ways that older adults can’t.
Some of the Sweet Briar student volunteers will serve as “running buddies,” but many will staff the face painting and “happy hair” tables before the 9 a.m. start. Happy hair, which involves lots of colors and accessories, is the most exciting part of the day for some runners, Hansen said.
There will be chants — to the tune of “We Will Rock You” — cheers and maybe some emotional tears before the morning is through, Hansen says. Already she sees the girls’ anticipation building as race day approaches.
“The excitement is starting to spread among the teams, especially with the completion of the practice 5K lesson within the curriculum. The girls begin to see the end in sight and are ready to show their stuff.”
Sweet Briar joins other Girls on the Run sponsors, including New Balance, Secret Deodorant, the Centra Foundation, Areva, Riverside Runners, Market at Main, and the sponsors who helped launch the group in Central Virginia, Genworth Financial and Holy Cross Regional School.