By Allysa McMahon
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
More than 2,000 runners participated in the Girls on the Run 5k race last Sunday in Columbia.
Runners showed up at 7130 Columbia Gateway Drive at 7 a.m. for on-site registration.
The Girls on the Run staff offered multiple things for runners to do before the race started.
For example, runners could get their hair sprayed pink, purple, orange or green. The event also housed a photo booth area and sign-making station for runners while numerous tents sold GOTR merchandise.
Girls on the Run is a nonprofit organization that is made up of over 220 councils nationwide. The 5k race held this weekend was organized by the Central Maryland council.
“Our mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using an experience based curriculum that uses running,” said Jessamine Duvall, the council’s executive director.
According to Duvall, the Central Maryland council includes Howard and Carroll counties. The program includes two running seasons that are held in the fall and spring, and span over a 10-week period.
“During the 10 weeks, they take something they may not have thought was possible and then accomplish it after the 5k,” Duvall said.
Since GOTR is a nonprofit organization, it relies on registration fees and fundraising to fund the program.
“Most of our funding comes from the registration fees,” Duvall said. “About 80 percent of our girls are paying the full tuition, which is $150 for the 10-week period.”
Sixty-six schools and 70 teams participated in this season’s GOTR program, Duvall said. They also had about 300 volunteer coaches.
“Our registration income for the year is in the $300,000 range,” Duvall said. “We have an annual budget of about $475,000 just in our council.”
The program also offers scholarships to runners who are unable to afford the registration fees. According to Duvall, the scholarships are self-funded and the amount given is not limited.
“We have a philosophy of never turning a girl away if she is unable to pay,” Duvall said. “Anyone can apply for a scholarship. They need to explain why they really want to do the program and we will work with them to make it happen.”
GOTR accepts donations at the time runners register for the program or from those who just want to pay it forward. All of the money received from the donations is given to the scholarships, according to Duvall.
Jocelyn Hieatzman, GOTR coach for Piney Ridge Elementary in Carroll County, was excited to run with her team of nine girls in the race.
“This is my second season coaching Girls on the Run,” Hieatzman said. “This season has been my favorite.”
Hieatzman said all of the girls did really well with the training for the race. They were all really excited to join the program and complete the 5k.
Lisa Soucy, a resident of Carroll County, participated in the race alongside her daughter. Soucy said they both were participating for the first time in the Girls on the Run program.
“We did the GOTR practice run at the school,” Soucy said. “We didn’t finish but we had a good time. She loves it.”
Both Hieatzman and Soucy were unsure of how long it took them to complete the 5k race. They both focused on the importance of completing the race and having fun while doing it.
Duvall said that is one of the reasons she became interested in the program. She joined after her seventh grade daughter participated in a race.
“I have helped coach and fell in love with what the program tries to accomplish,” Duvall said. “I saw a change in my daughter and have seen it carried with her throughout middle school.”