Running program promotes positive self image for young girls

By Nicole Hennessy

Avon

(Left to right) Jordis Issaac, Lilly Haas, Maria LaCivita, Reilly Small and Kendalyn Klesh from Avon Heritage South Elementary School participated in last year's Girls on the Run 5K. Photo courtesy of Girls on the Run.

(Left to right) Jordis Issaac, Lilly Haas, Maria LaCivita, Reilly Small and Kendalyn Klesh from Avon Heritage South Elementary School participated in last year’s Girls on the Run 5K. Photo courtesy of Girls on the Run.

Maureen LaCivita has worked with Girls on the Run for eight years, watching girls blossom from shy and unsure to expressive and confident.

LaCivita is a representative of the Northeast Ohio chapter of the national nonprofit running club, which focuses on positivity for students in third through fifth grade and sixth through eighth grade.

Teams of 15 are currently being assembled at Avon Heritage South Elementary School.

Team members will meet twice each week after school to make friends, build character, become healthier and then run a 5K.

LaCivita, whose own daughter is a Girls on the Run participant, says no experience running is necessary.

Mostly, the girls play games and talk.

Ultimately, LaCivita said, preparing for the 5K, which usually includes about 1,000 regional participants, is the goal.

“We’ve had girls that come in that first day and they’re so shy that they barely say a word,” LaCivita said.

“By the end of the season they’re just chatting it up, so they really come out of their shell a little bit and just find their confidence.”

LaCivita says the more shy a girl is, the more she’d like to see parents convince her to join. She remembers one student “who never even looked up at us, barely spoke and was very shy.”

“We kinda just encourage her to speak up,” LaCivita said.

“As the season went on, we definitely saw her looking at us more and smiling and putting her voice out there.”

The girl kept coming back each year, too.

“Every season she just opened up a little more,” said LaCivita.

Spring session at Avon Heritage begins March 7.

Online registration opens at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 20 and closes Feb. 26.

Registration is set at $150 per student, but financial aid is available.

To register or for more information, visit gotrneo.org.

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