The decision was easy once I volunteered the first time. Yes, I had considered an environmental organization that I really like to volunteer for as well, but something really struck me at the first Girls on the Run Tampa Bay Spring 5k.
The positive energy was palpable. The smiles were infectious. The love was visible.
Encouragement abounded from every coach, Sole Mate, parent, and staff member. Every participant seemed eager to be a part of the 3.1 mile journey around the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront.
I had volunteered as one of the photographers for the event so I could get an idea of what GOTR was all about. As I wandered the pre-race festivities taking candid shots of glittery hair, amazing families, and excited participants, I could really feel that the shouts of, "Girls on the Run is so much FUN!!" was truly being experienced by everyone there.
What I saw while taking pictures of the course, though, is what has endeared me to this organization. The smiles, the grit, the determination ... the perseverance. It wasn't until the Fall race, that I really saw what GOTR is all about .. and what they are teaching the girls in their programs.
In addition to all I experienced before, what I saw was the very last participant in the 5k. She had a pained, but determined, look on her face. She was already surrounded by several coaches and Sole Mates giving her encouragement and support as she approached the finish line. More coaches came as she got closer and closer to the finish chute. The entire way they never stopped with their encouragement and clapping. Along the finish chute, participants, coaches, parents, and staff were lined up along the fence as she started to pick up to a run again as she neared the finish line. Every person along that chute was cheering as loud as they could celebrating the accomplishment of their fellow runner.
It was absolutely beautiful.
Empowerment, celebrating each other's wins, exuding self confidence, mental toughness, emotional maturity ... all on display in the span of about 10 minutes. These are just some of the important lessons being taught by Girls on the Run to the future leaders in their programs.
Much like the goals given to the participants in GOTR programs, I've decided to give myself a mileage goal for the 12 hour run to benefit them. On January 7th, I attempted a 100km race on the Croom trails in Brooksville and decided to drop out after tweaking my knee. So, since this fundraiser was the important event coming up for me, I've decided to use March 8th as my next attempt to hit 100km/62.2mi. Being ready and healthy for this 12-hour run was a deciding factor to not continue the Croom Zoom and potentially injure myself further then.
I'm inspiried by the incredible positive energy of Girls on the Run and I hope you can join me in supporting them and the girls they so selflessly support. Find out more about GOTR Tampa Bay here: https://www.gotrtampa.org.
The future is bright because of the incredible programs of Girls on the Run! Join me in making these programs continue on for a long time to come!