Girls on the Run offers confidence, service

Bailey Flesner, Contributing Writer

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With the goals of fostering confidence, building peer connections and encouraging community service in mind, the Girls on the Run 5K was hosted Saturday in Mattoon.

Girls on the Run continues to grow and currently hosts more than 350 5K events across the United States, making the Girls on the Run 5K series the largest in the country.

Many Eastern students volunteered at the race and even Billy the Panther came to show his support.

Megan Eberle, a senior and communication disorders and sciences major and volunteer, said people supported the race in many ways, not just running.

“A lot of the racers run for at least a mile or two of the race, but running isn’t a requirement to be a part of this,” Eberle said. “A lot of people walk, or if they don’t want to do either but still want to be a part of this, volunteer like I did.”

Volunteers did a variety of things, she said, including helping people find parking and helping with registration.

“I was surprised at how many Eastern students volunteered, but it was nice to see familiar faces,” Eberle said.

Kayla Bear, a junior recreation administration major, said she has participated in the race since her freshman year when her friend on her softball team told her about it.

“I’ve run a lot of 5K’s before and I like getting involved with them,” Bear said. “This one is relatively close, and even though it was cold it was still fun to run. It’s hard to get going at first when it’s this cold but once you do, it’s great fun.”

When the girls in the program see the runners, Bear said, they get really excited and wave and laugh and dance, which inspires the runners to try even harder.

“I would most definitely recommend this race to everyone,” Bear said. “It’s a great experience to see everyone and be around the excited younger kids.”

This is all for young girls, so participants want to make sure they do everything they can to make the race memorable, she said.

Bear said, “We don’t have to dress up, but the little kids love it and it really boost morale, especially in this weather.”

Camice Barker, owner of Barker’s Balloonery and designer of the raceway arch, said it is great to see the turnout every year. She said more people hear about the race and tell their friends and so the participation rises considerably over the years.

“I do this arch every year for the Girls on the Run 5K,” Barker said. “The arch marks the beginning and the end of the race, and I incorporate different colors into the archway every race.”

According to their website, the Girls on the Run 5K offers the opportunity for all girls to participate, regardless of financial situation, through scholarships. Scholarships are available to families in need. The scholarship application is included in the program registration.

Bailey Flesner can be reached at [email protected] or 581-2812.