Girls on the Run complete 5K

Cordova Family Resource Center program focuses on empowerment through exercise 

“We believe that every girl can embrace who she is, can define who she wants to be, can rise to any challenge, can change the world. Can.”

 — Girls on the Run

The GOTR 5K event is scheduled around Halloween, this year on Oct. 29. Folks were encouraged to show up to the race in costume, which many of them did. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times
The GOTR 5K event is scheduled around Halloween, this year on Oct. 29. Folks were encouraged to show up to the race in costume, which many of them did.
Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

The Cordova Council of the Girls on the Run Greater Alaska chapter celebrated the conclusion of its 12-week pre-teen empowerment program on Oct. 29 with a 5k run and carnival open to the entire community.

Starting on upper Main Street at 10 a.m., runners, walkers, joggers and babies in strollers headed out Orca Road to a water station provided by Cordova Fire Department and emergency medical responders. Then, at the 2.5 K mark, they turned around and retraced their steps, crossing the finish line back on Main Street.

Staff from the Cordova Family Resource Center, which sponsored the program,  said they’d identified the need for a program of this caliber in Cordova and started the first GOTR council in the fall of 2015.

“The program consists of 10-12 weeks of lessons, meeting twice a week,” said CFRC Director Nicole Songer. “Exercise is involved in every lesson. We try to schedule it so that we begin prior to the school year in August, so that we can finish with the 5K race for Halloween.”

Girls on the Run’s leaders Nicole Songer and Yaritza Mejias ran the 5K in costume. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times
Girls on the Run’s leaders Nicole Songer and Yaritza Mejias ran the 5K in costume.
Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

This year, 15 girls participated in the program.

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GOTR is a North American non-profit program that encourages girls in the third through eighth grades to develop self-confidence, self-respect and healthy lifestyles through a curriculum, which creatively integrates running.

Songer said GOTR is about bringing out the best in each of the girls involved.

“These girls learn about themselves and that it’s okay to be different; that beauty is not just the outer appearance,” Songer said. “They learn how to stand up for themselves. They learn about peer relationships, for example, what is it to be a true friend.

“They learn how to stand up to peer pressure and to still feel included, and about gossiping and bullying – what to do, how to intervene, and about unhealthy relationships with friends, peers, teachers and parents,” she said. “The program teaches them that they have a voice by also focusing on community.”

CFRC asked adults to contribute a $10 registration fee, which goes toward sponsoring the next year’s season.

“GOTR International charges $100 per girl, but we’ve been able to provide scholarships to all of the girls that needed it for the last two years. The fee covers brand new shoes, socks, water bottles, medals, 5K activities, projects and other fun items like their goodie buckets,” Songer said.

Alaska Commercial Company’s manager, James Brand, sponsored the snacks for the 2016 season. The donation provided two snacks for each girl, twice a week. They also supplied pumpkins, water, candies and a cake for the carnival and 5K celebration after the race.

“The girls love the lessons. They become excited when about half way through the season we do a practice 5K run and we tell them they just ran a 5K!” Songer said. “They’re all so amazed and proud. It’s something they weren’t sure they could accomplish.”

Again this year, CFRC worked with the AWARE Shelter in Juneau, who are the Southeast regional GOTR coordinators and they also worked with the Cordova Public School District and Bidarki Recreation Center.

Coaches included Angela Butler, Kristen Carpenter, Elizabeth Collins, Yaritza Mejia, Nicole Songer, Tania Carson, Dani Hayden and junior coaches Nailea Martinez and Genesis Hernandez.

“As coaches, we have all shared how we love watching the girls grow, spreading their wings and learning to become more vocal,” Songer said.

GOTR of Greater Alaska is an affiliate council of Girls on the Run International, which has a network of 200-plus locations across the United States and Canada.

“The (girls) all shared at the last meeting how sad they are to be ending the season. They’ve created new relationships and friends that they will miss. GOTR allows them to be themselves while they enjoy a safe, fun activity,” Songer said.

For more information on GOTR, visit 

https://www.girlsontherun.org.

Runners, walkers, joggers and families pushing babies in strollers all gathered together on Main Street for the start of the Girls on the Run 5K event on Saturday, Oct. 29. Photo by Nikki Abbott/For The Cordova Times
Runners, walkers, joggers and families pushing babies in strollers all gathered together on Main Street for the start of the Girls on the Run 5K event on Saturday, Oct. 29.
Photo by Nikki Abbott/For The Cordova Times
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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson
Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at [email protected] or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.