Girls on the Run to take place Saturday

Luis Martinez, News Editor

The Girls on the Run program of East Central Illinois will mark the end of their season with a 5k at 9 a.m. Saturday at O’Brien Stadium.

Girls on the Run is a youth development program that helps to prepare girls in 3rd through 8th grade for 5k events while helping them with life skills.

Sarah Dowell, the council director of Girls on the Run of East Central Illinois, said she was a teacher when she first heard of Girls on the Run.

Dowell knew she wanted to be involved with the program, however the closest council to her was located in Springfield.

“I ran track and cross country in high school,” Dowell said. “Fast forward to 2011, and I came across a Facebook post that there was going to be a new Girls on the Run council here in East Central Illinois. I sent a response to the founding council director about how to get involved.”

Dowell said the 5k is used as a celebratory event for the Girls on the Run season.

“Our girls participate with volunteer coaches over the course of 10 weeks and then they focus on the goal of the 5k,” Dowell said.

Dowell said the 5k is a time when all of the girls who are involved with Girls on the Run can shine.

Beth Gillespie, the former council director and the interim director of the civic engagement and volunteerism office, said over 30 groups of students have signed up to volunteer at the 5k on Saturday.

These groups include Habitat for Humanity, Pride, Epsilon Sigma Alpha, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Kappa Delta.

“My role is different, but I’ll still be there and still be a part. I still fully support Girls on the Run,” Gillespie said. “I think the mission of the program is something that I will support for the rest of my life.”

Gillespie said the experience for the girls as well as the volunteers will not be any different this year and will be up to the same caliber as previous Girls on the Run events.

Gillespie said for the last four years, they have been able to recruit over 600 people to volunteer at their 5ks.

“Sometimes it’s little more and sometimes it’s a little less,” Gillespie said. “It depends on what is happening. This is Greek Week and there are a lot of other activities happening on Saturday, but even still what I love about Eastern students is that they are still committed to supporting the girls who are in Girls on the Run.”

According to the East Central Illinois Girls on the Run website, online registration for the Girls on the Run 5k is closed, but anyone who still wishes to register can call or visit the Mattoon Area Family YMCA. Participants can also register on Saturday for $25.

Luis Martinez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]