Eastern students volunteer to mentor, cheer on girls at 5K


Corryn Brock

Community members run on the corner of Broadway Street and 16th Street in Mattoon, where The Girls on the Run 5K running route began, Saturday morning. The run had approximately 400 race participants.

Corryn Brock, News Editor

Eastern students volunteered with the annual Girls on the Run 5K on Nov. 9, as well as the programming leading up to the race.

Girls on the Run of East Central Illinois describes its mission as “(inspiring) girls to recognize their inner strength and celebrate what makes them one of a kind.”

Before the 5K girls in 3rd through 8th grade took part in a 10-week program that was meant to teach them essential skills in life.

Sarah Fors, a junior elementary education major and Girls on the Run coach, said the girls trained for the race as well as learned something with each practice.

Fors said the lesson she most enjoys teaching the girls was about positivity.

“My favorite was positive self-talk because it is something that is so important to learn from a young age and I needed to learn from that lesson as well,” Fors said.

Lexi Claerhout, a sophomore education major, was a coach for the 10-week program and worked with the young women leading up to the race.

Claerhout said she enjoyed teaching the girls how to communicate efficiently.

“My favorite lesson to teach was about communication. Communication is a life skill that can be hard, but is needed throughout life,” Claerhout said. “The girls had to work together and communicate throughout the entire practice due to different activities.”

This was Claerhout’s first year volunteering and she was she was happy with her experience.

“I’m very glad I took the opportunity to help with Girls on the Run,” Claerhout said. “I enjoyed the experience and I hope to do it again next year because of the joy I had being a coach.”

Claerhout said she enjoyed watching the girls work together.

“The best part for me was seeing the girls grow. They grew a bond together as well as developed further in confidence. They got to work on skills that are important in life and I am glad I got to be a part of that teaching and development,” Claerhout said.

Fors said she hope she was a person the girls could look up to during the program.

“I hope they saw me as a good role model and that I gave them support and love on those days that may have been more difficult for them,” Fors said.

Claerhout and Fors both said they would recommend volunteering with Girls on the Run of East Central Illinois to other students.

“I think it is an amazing opportunity, and I would strongly encourage it,” Claerhout said.

Fors said the opportunity is valuable for education majors.

“I would say do it,” Fors said. “All of the lessons are put together for you and the girls are super sweet although some days they may not want to be there, they really do love Girls on the Run. Especially if you are an education major it’s a great opportunity!”

After the race Claerhout said the event exceeded her expectations.

“It was amazing! The day went better than I could have imagined. The girls had such positive energy, and they did so well on finishing the race,” Claerhout said. “They knew when their body needed a break and to walk before continuing to run. I was proud to see how well they listen to what was taught to them and they kept moving.”

There were other volunteering opportunities for students beyond coaching, however.

Several registered student organizations, Greek organizations and local groups volunteered by cheering on the race participants from the sidelines.

Kamryn Gengler, a sophomore special education major, joined other women from her sorority, Delta Zeta, in cheering the runners.

“It was great,” Gengler said. “I felt the cheering on the runners not only gave them a boost but was also rewarding to see them finish the race.”

Gengler said the best part of cheering was “giving all the runners high fives and seeing their faces light up when they saw us cheering them on.”

She added that she thought “it was beneficial to see people putting in the work, motivating us to put in the same.”

Volunteering opportunities with Girls on the Run of East Central Illinois can be found on their website, girlsontheruneci.org.

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].