Girls on the Run celebrate with 5k

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COLUMBIA — The Heart of Missouri Girls on the Run is wrapping up its fall season with a celebration 5k Saturday at the A.L. Gustin Golf Course.

Cheryl Unterschutz, executive director for Heart of Missouri Girls on the Run, said the program teaches girls about themselves and others.

"Girls on the Run is a youth empowerment program for girls in grades three through eight. We offer a 10-week program, twice a year, where girls come together to learn about building their self-esteem, building positive body image. We teach them how to build positive peer relations and community relations, and we help them understand how to deter and deal with bullying when they encounter it."

The program focuses on keeping the girls active.

"It's a physical activity based program, so we incorporate physical activity to teach the girls about ways to use exercise as a way to maintain balance in their lives, to help them through stressful times," Unterschutz said. "Then as part of the program, they do actually train to run a 5k, and at the end of the 10 weeks, we host this huge celebration 5k."

Elizabeth Beaman has participated in the program multiple times and has learned a lot.

"Even if you get hurt in some way, you can always stand up for others," Beaman said. "If you love running and are getting hurt at school, you should join."

There will be stations for face and hair painting as well as super hero cuff and cape making stations. Since the 5k is a celebration, they want everyone to have fun.

"Number one: it is a non-competitive race for the girls. The whole point of the 5k is for the girls to see a goal that they have been working toward come to fruition, so the idea is they've worked for 10 weeks, and now, they are ready to celebrate the fact that they are going to do this 5k," Unterschutz said. "Every girl wears a race bib with the number one on it. That's important because they are all number one, and every girl receives a beautiful medal when they finish the race."

The program is offered at schools and other community sites.

"It's about empowering girls to believe in the themselves," Unterschutz said. "It really opens up their minds and their hearts to understanding that the world's a bigger place than just them, and they have an important role in this world."