Girls on the Run – Sierras, a program that seeks to enhance both the physical and emotional capabilities of girls, is celebrating 15 years in the Tahoe region. What began with a group of eight girls in Truckee, has since expanded to North Tahoe and Reno, reaching more than 650 girls in the 2019 season. Its outdoor focus and a strong commitment from the board and staff enabled GOTR to come through the pandemic strongly, with a big group of girls participating this spring.
“We are equipping our youth with soft skills that they will be able to carry with them through their school years and as they become adults in the community,” said Girls on the Run – Sierras Executive Director Joy Heuer. One of those adults who is still benefiting from the program is Kellie Holman, who served as a junior coach in Tahoe City in 2009 and 2010 while she was a student at North Tahoe High School. Being a coach motivated Holman toward her career choice: She is now a middle- school counselor in San Diego.
“It was amazing seeing all the techniques GOTR uses, connecting mental health with physical health,” Holman said. “I still use the ideas I learned at Girls on the Run today. It really touches the fundamentals of what I deal with in middle school: gossip, self-love, body image — all really good tools for middle school.”
The program is for third- through fifth-grade girls, with a spring session in the North Tahoe/Truckee area and both spring and fall sessions in Reno. The teams meet after school twice a week for 10 weeks and culminate their time together with a celebratory 5k event at which the girls are joined by an adult running buddy. In those 10 weeks, the girls learn how to be good friends to each other and to stand up for themselves. They are taught the importance of proper nutrition and hydration, and how being active can help both their bodies and their minds.
“I love the 5K — seeing all the different teams coming together and getting their running buddies, and seeing all that communal love in one place,” said Abby Osborn, a Girls on the Run coach for seven years.
“It makes me cry every time. Seeing the girls running across the finish line; they are pumped.” Osborn says she wishes GOTR had been around when she was a girl.
“It’s right at the time that girls have all these changes socially, emotionally, and physically,” she said. “It’s a really sweet outlet.”
Osborn also feels it’s important for girls of this age to build relationships with other adults who can be mentors.
“Especially right now, these kids have had to spend so much time with their nuclear family and not many interactions with other adults,” she said. “In Girls on the Run, they are learning how to develop relationships with other adults. I get to be the cool aunt.”
Mike Valim has been a Girls on the Run board member for three years. He joined because he knew several board members and was impressed by their energy and commitment to the program. “What hooked me was going to my first 5K,” he said. “They were beaming with satisfaction, pride, and confidence. It was truly remarkable.”
In 2021, since the program couldn’t be hosted in the schools, Tahoe Mountain Club, where Valim works as director of club sales, hosted the girls at Old Greenwood. “I got to go to most of the practices and I saw these kids who barely knew each other at first developing friendships and being supportive towards each other,” Valim said.
Now in eighth grade, Emma Silvern was in Girls on the Run in third and fourth grade. She said she joined the program with several friends but has made many more new friends since joining GOTR.
“Together we learned ways to build our self-confidence, become a team, set goals, and serve our community,” Silvern said. “I still try to use these GOTR qualities on my track, mountain biking, and ski teams, in school, and in my everyday life. It just makes things more fun and creates better experiences.”
There are plenty of ways for the community to get involved with supporting Girls on the Run – Sierras. You can become a coach or volunteer at the 5K race, which is part of the Truckee Running Festival held on June 4 at Riverview Park. Donations to the nonprofit organization are also welcomed.
Learn more about Girls on the Run – Sierras at girlsontherunsierras.org.