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Foundation Gift Helps Develop Healthy Lifestyles

Running program transforms girls’ lives

Girls on the Run

Maryanne and Julia: Smiles are contagious at the end-of-season 5K run.

Inner city girls are learning to build self esteem while training to run a 5K race, thanks to a Healthy Living Grant from the AMA Foundation to Girls on the Run Manhattan.

“Girls on the Run has taught me to keep going and push myself when I’m tired and I feel like I can’t keep going. The program taught me to stand up for myself,” said Lila, a nine-year-old who is in her second year at Girls on the Run Manhattan, which serves nearly 200 girls throughout the city.

The program Lila runs with serves public school 290 on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The 16 girls in the program are in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. The parent organization, Girls on the Run International, has more than 150 Girls on the Run councils across North America. Local volunteers coach the runners while serving as role models to encourage girls to build self-respect and healthy lifestyles.

“The topics that the self esteem part of the Girls on the Run curriculum address are important to girls of all backgrounds regardless of race or social economic class,” explains coach Megan Brown. The girls meet weekly for a lesson and a run.

As a former school teacher and social worker, Ms. Brown says she has seen what happens to girls in schools without programs like this. “Unfortunately girls fall into the trap of being valued more for their outward appearance than their character on the inside. It only gets worse as they grow up. Girls on the Run reinforces the importance of character and helps prepare girls for life.”

“My daughter has really enjoyed the program,” said Lila’s mom, Shelly. “I was so, so proud of her when she ran the 5K, and she was proud of herself. Lila has met several wonderful role models, young women with a positive, supportive attitude that rubs off on all the girls.”

Ms. Brown says that Race Day is the time when she sees the culmination of the program’s 24 lessons. The girls are cheered on by their families, school friends, and teachers, as well as the running community. The program helps the participants become more positive and confident. The girls say hello and wave to strangers along the route, something they would not have done before.

Girls on the Run Manhattan has been awarded a grant from the AMA Foundation’s Fund for Better Health

“Educating young people to lead a healthy lifestyle is very important,” says Fund for Better Health donor Dee Loge-Wacker, who is also a member of the AMA Alliance’s AMA Foundation Committee.

The Fund for Better Health encourages healthy lifestyles in communities across the United States. Supported by the AMA Alliance, this fund provides grants for projects that address the following areas: nutrition and physical fitness; alcohol, substance abuse and smoking prevention; and violence prevention. To date, the program has awarded nearly $300,000 to more than 200 community organizations nationally.

To make a gift to the Fund for Better Health, please contact Judi Peters at judi.peters@ama-assn.org or (312) 464-5852.