By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
BEAVER SPRINGS — Look out, Montour and Northumberland counties, you’ve got Girls on the Run.
The running and youth development program for girls in grades three through five is expanding into those two counties following its marked success in Snyder and Union counties, said Cheryl Stumpf, executive director of the Greater Susquehanna Valley chapter.
“When I conceived this idea, I didn’t see it growing as fast,” said Stumpf, who started the program about three years ago at the Middlecreek Area Community Center in Beaver Springs. “I think it did because it was something so needed in our area. People have been just latching on to it.”
Adding the two counties means potentially eight school districts and as many as 260 girls could become involved in the program. During the spring session, more than 140 girls were in the program and the 5K race.
Girls on the Run teaches girls about body image, self-esteem, bullying and friendships. They also complete a 5K race and a community service project.
The Danville School District specifically requested it, Stumpf said, and by natural extension, it was decided to pull Northumberland County into the fold. Girls on the Run is offered in the Lewisburg, Midd-West, Mifflinburg and Selinsgrove school districts.
A Shamokin Area School District representative already has contacted Stumpf, she said, hopeful that others will follow suit.
Stumpf is a licensed professional counselor specializing in child and adolescent therapy and became interested in the program for her own daughter, she said.
“In the third grade, girls already are struggling with identity issues and peer relationships,” she said, topics that magnify as they get older and deal with body image and self-esteem.
While sports are proven to develop and strengthen confidence, “Girls need something other than organized sports to realize their potential,” Stumpf said. Not all young girls take part in organized sports, “but they all struggle with the same issues.”
With the expansion comes a big need for more volunteers, Stumpf said, runners or not. “We need people to be coaches, help with classes, be a mentor, jump in anywhere,” she said.
The fall session begins Sept. 9, and the 5K race will take place Nov. 16 at Susquehanna University. The program meets after school, two days each week.
Local and national sponsors and grant money cover part of the Girls on the Run fee per participant, so right now it’s $95 per girl. Nearly 30 percent of girls are on a full or partial scholarship. Local sponsors include Weis Markets, Evangelical Community Hospital, Sire Advertising and Susquehanna Bank.
Families with girls needing a scholarship to take part in Girls on the Run can check out the website at www.girlsontherunsusquehannavalley.org or call Stumpf at (570) 850-4854.