YMCA caps youth running program with 5K, June 4

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YMCALogoMore than 1,500 girls and boys from throughout Chester County will show the teamwork and confidence they’ve learned as two important YMCA of Greater Brandywine after-school programs end their season with a 5K event set for 9 a.m. June 4. 

The Y’s largest classes of participants ever for Girls on the Run and STRIDE will lace up their sneakers and put their lessons in action during the family fun event at West Chester East High School, 450 Ellis Lane, in West Chester. The public is invited to come out and cheer on the students. 

Nearly 1,100 girls and almost 500 boys will take part in the 5K – record enrollment for the Y. 

“We’re incredibly proud of the young people who not only chose to participate in these programs, but also dedicate themselves to the ideals of teamwork, self-improvement and goal-setting,” said Denise L. Day, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Brandywine. 

“These programs showcase the Y’s commitment to healthy living, youth development and social responsibility,” Day said. “The skills and values these students gain here will be a part of them for the rest of their lives, and the growing number of participants shows we’re making a real impact.”

Both programs help students redefine personal accomplishment by encouraging participants to reach individual goals athletically while working with others to achieve mutual success and satisfaction. The programs boost and channel the energy found in sports without the pressures of competition.

 Girls on the Run, established in 2007, is an international program that uses the power of running to help prepare girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living. A second component, Heart & Sole, focuses on middle school girls, many of whom face intense social pressures ranging from acceptance to body image. The self-confidence and permission to explore broader ways of thinking make the program help girls at a vulnerable time achieve lasting success.

STRIDE – Success +Teamwork + Respect + Inspiration + Determination = Excellence in Character – operates under a similar framework, but for elementary and middle school boys. Developed in 2010 by the YMCA of Greater Brandywine, it promotes community responsibility and working together as core values. The number of boys running marks a significant increase from last June, when 320 boys were enrolled in.

For 90 minutes twice a week after school, students engage in running and other exercises, combined with discussions of cooperation, service to the community, good nutrition, resisting substance abuse and positive body image. At least two volunteer coaches, often teachers or parents, work with the children at each site. Program alumni have been known to stay with the programs as junior coaches.

Participants celebrate their advancements and achievements at the 5K, sharing them with family, coaches, and teachers who have been working with them and encouraging them during their 10 weeks of training. Many will be at the event cheering from the sidelines; others may run alongside them.

“Emphasis is not placed on running the fastest or coming in first,” said Nate Robinson, who helps coordinate the Y’s youth running programs. “This is an event, not a race. Competition is downplayed. The goal is to reach the finish line at a girl or boy’s own pace. 

“Our aim is the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in training for a task and completing it,” he added.

For event or program details, call 610-643-9622, ext. 2138 or 2109 or visit www.ymcagbw.org.

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