South Peninsula Haven House is seeking volunteer coaches and participants for its program Girls on the Run.
The Homer-based nonprofit supports those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse by providing safe shelter, crisis intervention, prevention and victim advocacy. It’s participated in the international running program for nearly a decade.
Marcee Gray, program coordinator for the local Girls on the Run program, said their aim is to teach girls — grades 3 to 5 — confidence and leadership skills, as well as the connection between healthy bodies and minds.
“We get out and we bring girls together,” Gray said. “We have a fun environment in which we inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun experience-based curriculum, which creatively integrates running and physical education into it.”
Gray said during the 10-week program, they hope to teach young girls how to understand and speak up for themselves. They also hope the girls learn what healthy relationships look like.
Last year, 20 girls signed up in Homer, she said. The first year she ran it — in 2020 — there were only six.
“What’s amazing to me these days is how much kids have going on in their lives,” Gray said. “Wow. It’s a lot to compete with, between violin lessons and ballet lessons and all the different things kids are doing. Having a twice-a-week commitment for 10 weeks is a huge accomplishment.”
While there are a number of locations throughout Alaska that offer the Girls on the Run program, Homer is the only community on the Kenai Peninsula.
Gray said kids and coaches don’t necessarily have to like or know how to run to participate. That’s something that will naturally come out of the 10-week course.
This season starts on Feb. 27, with practice on Mondays and Wednesdays after school at the West Homer Elementary gym from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Halfway through the 10-week session, the girls will run a practice marathon. Then, at the end of the program, they’ll run a 5k with family and friends.
“In this 5k, you don’t have to run the whole thing. You can walk and run it, you can skip and run it or skip and walk it. If you happen to be in a wheelchair, you’re gonna be rolling it,” Gray said. “So just because you don’t have a love or knowledge of running, that’s no reason to not join in. The important part is mentoring these girls and giving them role models and connections that will make a difference in their lives.”
More than 2 million girls in the U.S. and Canada have participated in the Girls on the Run program.
To find out more or sign up as either a participant or volunteer coach, you can visit their website.