Special 5K set for Sunday

Published 9:38 pm Thursday, May 18, 2017

More than 100 girls from Suffolk will cap off their spring semester of school with a 5K run on Sunday at Virginia Wesleyan College.

They will join more than 700 other girls in third through eighth grades from throughout South Hampton Roads and Western Tidewater in the inspiring event, which will begin at 2 p.m. A family fun fair begins at noon, and the fair is free and open to the general public. Spectators are welcome to cheer for the girls during the run.

The event is the culmination of the Girls on the Run program for the school year. The regional program meets twice a week after school in participating schools. Volunteer coaches offer life lessons in health, wellness, self-esteem and community service, and the girls then take part in a running activity that reinforces the day’s lesson.

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Ellen Carver, executive director of Girls on the Run, said the program reaches all kinds of girls.

“We kind of universally reach everybody,” she said. “The ones that are already athletic, we help them raise their own bar.” For the ones who aren’t, she added, “We have something to offer them, and we get them moving.”

At the end of the semester, every girl in the program completes the 5K race alongside a designated running buddy.

“We really focus on moving forward and completing a 5K at whatever pace they need to use,” Carver said.

The Obici Healthcare Foundation has been critical in helping the organization expand in Suffolk and Western Tidewater, Carver said.

“They have given us some terrific funding for three years,” Carver said.

In Suffolk, Girls on the Run has chapters at Driver, Elephant’s Fork, Northern Shores, Pioneer, Hillpoint, Mack Benn Jr. and Booker T. Washington elementary schools and at John F. Kennedy Middle School.

The team at the Taylor Bend YMCA also draws some girls from Suffolk. Meherrin Elementary School in Southampton and S.P. Morton Elementary School in Franklin also are served through the Obici Healthcare Foundation grant.

Carver said the organization hopes to increase the number of participating schools from Suffolk and Western Tidewater in the future.

She said parents, teachers and principals love the program.

“It’s just this happy, joyful group of girls getting exercise and playing after school,” she said. “It’s just a really good, kind of infectious sight to see on these campuses.”

Sunday’s event takes place rain or shine. Registration for the 5K is open to the general public until it sells out, but must be done in person at the Girls on the Run office, 287 Independence Blvd., Virginia Beach, on Friday or Saturday. Volunteer positions are also open.

Visit www.gotrshr.org for more information.