Posted Hana Bieliauskas on 11/15/2016 |Giving Back
“OH!” A barely audible gasp escaped from a small 3rd grader at the smallest school in North Carolina, as she lifted a brand-new pair of hot pink, green and blue running shoes from the box. Beaming, she pulled on what was likely her first pair of never-worn running shoes—a gift from my friend a few hundred miles south in Orlando, Florida.
This fall, I joined the Board of Girls on the Run of Western North Carolina. Each season, board members visit the 30+ sites spread throughout the 11 counties the council serves. I visited Bee Log Elementary, where there are only nine girls in grades 3-5. The Girls on the Run team was coached by Missy, one of the most dynamic, enthusiastic and energetic coaches I’ve ever met.
Bee Log is also a Title 1 (low-income) school, as are 80 percent of the schools served by Girls on the Run of Western North Carolina. The girls all needed new shoes.
Following my visit, I shared a photo of me with the team on Facebook and Instagram. Within a couple hours, multiple friends had offered to buy the girls shoes. Two weeks later, I felt like Santa Claus delivering six pairs of shoes to the girls from friends across the country—as far as Boulder, Colorado.
I won’t soon forget the looks of genuine surprise on the girls faces. This small act of kindness proved how people everywhere, from all walks of life, want to and will come together to support our girls. While Girls on the Run has partnerships with generous companies and local businesses to provide shoes to girls who need them, it meant a lot to me and to my friends to directly support these amazing girls.
When you make even a small impact on the life of one girl, your whole world changes. The past five years, I’ve been involved in Girls on the Run in two very different locations—Asheville, North Carolina, and Columbus, Ohio. The geography, demographics and economies may differ widely, but I’ve found that the girls themselves are very similar. No matter the place, young girls everywhere share the same curiosity, drive, honesty and eagerness to learn and discover.
For four years, I was a Head Coach and 5K Marketing Chair for Girls on the Run of Franklin County in Columbus. These roles let me combine my greatest skills and passions: Running, women’s empowerment and public relations. Through coaching, I witnessed firsthand how the Girls on the Run program strengthens, empowers and enables young girls to recognize their limitless potential—which has helped me accurately tell the Girls on the Run story via social media and the news media, and to potential funders and sponsors, both in Ohio and now in North Carolina. I wrote about why I coached on my blog last year!
All of the girls you meet leave an impact, but there have been a few that stand out and will leave their mark for years to come—like the 8-year-old I coached and ran the 5K with last fall, who, like me at that age, filled notebooks with stories and loved cats. Or the Bee Log girls this November, excitedly pulling on their new shoes.
As adults, we get so wrapped up in our busy, complicated lives that it’s so refreshing to spend time with young girls, who are just starting to find out who they are. The girls inspire me to reach out to local media to spread their stories, to encourage the community to attend the one-of-a-kind events that are the Girls on the Run 5Ks, and to tell potential sponsors how much their support is truly vital to bringing this life-changing program to local girls.
Running helps me refresh, recharge and feel strong. When a girl puts on her running shoes, I hope she, too, feels like she can take on the world. I’m so proud to be part of Girls on the Run, helping empower today’s girls to be anyone and anything they want to be.