Girls on the Run gives youth confidence


Mackenzie Freund

A group of girls approach the finish line after running the course set for Girls on the Run Saturday. The course began and ended at O’Brien Field and wound around a Charleston neighborhood, and ending at the Panther Trail.

Cassie Buchman, City Editor

After weeks of training, hundreds of runners and walkers came out for a Girls on the Run 5K race Saturday at O’Brien Field.

More than 600 volunteers from various Eastern registered student organizations and the community came out to cheer on the runners, including participants from the Girls on the Run Program and the Stride program, which is geared for boys.

Many girls, volunteers and coaches wore colorful tutus with even more colors and sparkles in their hair.

Teams came from around Coles County, including Effingham and Arthur.

Words of encouragement were written on the street and volunteers showed runners where to go.

Some of the people cheering were family members, such as Dwen Harris, who came to watch her granddaughter run.

Harris said her granddaughter’s mother put her in the program and other programs like it despite her asthma.

“She just keeps on pushing, just keeps going,” Harris said.

Harris said her granddaughter just turned 10 and had been participating in Girls on the Run for a couple of years now.

Running may have had a part in helping her granddaughter deal with her asthma, she said.

Later on in the race, Harris was able to see her granddaughter, who stopped to give her a hug then quickly went right back to running.

Eastern’s Unity Gospel Choir cheered, “Keep pushing, keep going” to the people running.

Cheyenne Hughes, a junior family and consumer sciences major, said Saturday was the first time Unity Gospel Choir had done community service as a choir.

“It just seemed like a good place,” she said. “We’re all about ministering, getting the message out.”

The Latin American Student Association cheered near the streets by O’Brien.

Matthew Wilkie, a sophomore Spanish major, said members of LASO had been out since 7:30 a.m. to support Girls on the Run and Stride.

“I think with a program like this, they can use all the support and positive energy they can get,” he said.

Service sorority Epsilon Sigma Alpha also arrived at the race early at 8 a.m.

Alexandra Sterling, a sophomore accounting major, said Girls on the Run seemed like it was bringing a good message to young girls.

“It gives them positive messages instead of negative ones,” she said.

Jessica Loftis, a sophomore pre-nursing major, came to Girls on the Run with Deborah Smetters, a junior psychology major who came with the psychology club.

Loftis said she knew how important it could be to have support based on other running events she has participated in.

“I’ve got compliments, been getting all the high fives,” she said.

As they completed the last leg of their race and got closer to the finish line, girls started doing cartwheels on the track. At the end of the race, everyone who ran got a medal.

Caitlin Muse, a 12-year-old Girls on the Run participant, ran the race with her mother.

She said she ran in the 5K last season as well.

“I know I run really fast now, and I know I can do it,” she said. “I like to meet new people.”

Her mother Amanda Muse said she could see how Girls on the Run helped Caitlin with her confidence, and increasing her self-esteem.

“She now knows she can do things she never thought she could,” Amanda Muse said. “She’s kind of come out of her shell.”


Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]