South Tampa News
Girls On Track For Reindeer Run
JAMIE PILARCZYKPALMA CEIA - Fifth-grade girls at Roosevelt Elementary School are running in circles and happy to be doing so.
Published: December 10, 2008
Published: December 10, 2008
About three months ago, some couldn't complete one lap around the school's track. Come Saturday, they all will run 3.1 miles in the Tampa Bay Lightning Reindeer Run.
"Before, I thought three miles sounded like a lot, but now that we practiced, I think I can do it," said Marissa Wilson, 10.
As part of Girls on the Run Hillsborough County, organized by the Ophelia Project Tampa Bay, girls are learning to bolster their self-esteem with fitness and by achieving a short-term goal - completion of the program, culminating in a 5K run.
"It's a prevention program that encourages girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running," said community program coordinator Kate Blackman.
The program encourages the concepts of whole health, touching on themes of being a good friend, gossiping, bullying and healthy decisions. The girls met twice a week for one hour after school with volunteer coaches, following a curriculum provided by the Ophelia Project.
Launched with a pilot project this spring, Blackman said there are three clubs running this fall including Roosevelt, Mintz Elementary in Brandon and Winston Park in Palm River. The program's cost is $150 per girl, but scholarships are available. Blackman said about 75 percent of the participants are on some type of assistance this year.
She hopes to double the site offerings, but that depends on interest and availability of volunteer coaches. While the fall session will end on the 13th, she is organizing sites for a spring session which will begin either in January or February, with a 5K run in early May.
Angela Heuchan of Virginia Park volunteered to be a Sole Mate, a running mentor who helps encourage the girls on race day. The mother of three has a first-grader at Roosevelt. She heard about the program from other parents.
"I'm a runner, and I found it very helpful and a great part of my life," Heuchan said. "I'm excited to be a Sole Mate. It's a fantastic program."
Amy Cannon is Roosevelt's media specialist with a daughter, Allie, in the fifth grade. She volunteered to coach the Girls on the Run program - along with three other Roosevelt teachers - as a way to offer her daughter the opportunity.
"It is a good tool to send these girls off to middle school with," Cannon said. "I see my daughter strengthening and being more motivated."
Skill levels vary, and each girl is encouraged to go at her own pace.
To participate in Girls on the Run Hillsborough County as a volunteer coach, Sole Mate or student, contact Kate Blackman at (813) 514-9555, Ext. 102, or go to www.opbi.org/ opheliatampa.
Reporter Jamie Pilarczyk can be reached at (813) 259-7661.