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More than just running

Along with reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, nearly 1,000 girls across Hampton Roads learned running this semester thanks to an incredible organization called Girls on the Run.

Girls on the Run is a national nonprofit organization that encourages girls ages 8 to 13 to run. But that’s only part of their program, which also includes teaching girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through lessons and running games.

As Creekside Elementary School fourth-grader Christina Petruzalek told reporter Alex Perry recently, “We don’t just run. We have activities that make the running more than just running.”

Participants meet twice weekly for the 10-week curriculum, which culminates in a celebratory 5K run this weekend. They also do community service projects during the semester.

About 150 of the young participants this semester were from Suffolk schools, including Booker T. Washington, Creekside, Driver, Elephant’s Fork, Mack Benn Jr., Northern Shores and Pioneer elementary schools.

The girls are coached in the after-school program by volunteers, who are often teachers or parents at the school.

In a time when girls are struggling to have self-respect and lead a healthy lifestyle when the worldly influences around them are encouraging them to do anything but, this worthy program is building those foundations from a young age, when it’s more likely to take root in the girls’ lives.

The program can also help these girls avoid the childhood obesity that can cause so many problems later on.

We appreciate Girls on the Run for the work they do and encourage all schools that have the opportunity to start a program at their school. There’s no telling how many girls will have their lives enriched as a result.