Amy Helps Impact Young Girls Lives Through Girls on the Run

It wasn’t about the love of running or the motivation to help somebody out.  Her journey began, as Amy Fleeger bluntly puts it, “selfishly.”

Having struggled for a couple years with unwanted baby weight, Amy’s motivation and focus was on getting herself healthy and losing a few pounds in the process.  When a good friend approached her about a running program that would keep her accountable, Amy was all for it.  Little did she know this program would not only help her get healthy, but it would help her gain the self-esteem she needed to see herself differently.

Girls on the Run is an organization designed to inspire and empower young girls by the simple act of running.  Targeting pre-adolescent girls all across the country, the Girls on the Run program trains these young ladies to participate in a 5k end-of-season run.

“What I didn’t realize is that Girls on the Run offers young girls a place where they can be themselves.  Where they can open up and be honest.  Where adult women help to build their self-esteem and offer them a safe place to air their struggles,” Amy said.  “I wish something like this was around when I was young.  I struggled with low self-esteem too.  It’s hard not to, when you are constantly barraged by magazines and television telling you what beautiful looks like.”

This was Amy’s first year as a Girls on the Run coach and on Saturday, May 18, the culmination to a 12 week, twice a week training program took place.  Hosting this year’s event was East Kentwood High School, where more than 2000 girls and 800 coaches participated in the 10 year anniversary of Girls on the Run for Kent County.

“We don’t call the 5k a race; it’s a run.  We run to have fun.  To achieve something we’ve been working hard for.  It’s a team.  And each girl is excited about the other when they cross the finish line,” Amy said.

She continues, “During every practice we do an ‘Energy Cheer’ as a group.  It goes: Girls on the run is so much fun!  All I want to do is run, run, run!”

Amy says that these energy cheers help to motivate these young ladies; even her 2 ½ year-old daughter gets in on the cheers.

Amy recalls one young lady Kortney (name changed) in particular who was a bit slower than the rest.  She arrived Saturday morning without a running buddy.  It was up to Amy to take her under her wing and run alongside this girl.  Amy admits there were times when the young lady wanted to give up, but she remembered what it would’ve been like had she had someone to cheer her on when she was young.

No longer motivated by losing a few pounds, Amy cheered and encouraged this young girl on.  As they approached the finish line, Amy looked over to Kortney and said “We are going to make it past that line, even if I have to pull you along.  We can finish it, together!”

Arriving at the finish line hand in hand, with eyelashes spiked with tears, a smile illuminating their faces, Amy and Kortney high fived and hugged; the 5k run was complete and they couldn’t be happier.

What started out as a way to keep herself motivated turned out to be a blessing, where Amy could directly impact young girls lives by teaching them self-respect, and healthy decision making.

Amy is now a proud advocate of Girls on the Run and wants to encourage other women to join her in coaching these young ladies.

“There is a need for women to step up and help in their community.  Sometimes girls are turned away because there are not enough coaches,” Amy says.

Girls on the Run is very particular when it comes to providing individualized attention; they allow 14 girls to two coaches.  The importance of getting more volunteers to help cannot be ignored.

For more information on the Girls on the Run program in your area or to get one started please visit www.girlsontherun.org

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