UNION COUNTY, NJ — Some Union County chapters of Girls on the Run (GOTR), an afterschool program designed to enhance girls’ social, emotional and physical skills and behaviors to successfully navigate life experiences, are currently seeking volunteer coaches to help their young participants increase their self-confidence, develop healthy relationships and feel good about themselves through the 10-week program.

This fall, GOTR is coming to 16 sites in Union County, but the sites still in need of volunteers include the Mountainside and Clark locations. The season begins on the second week of September and continues until the culminating 5K run in Florham Park on Nov. 17.

Union County GOTR Director Jane Collins said the above image of the young girl hugging her coach is evidence of the impact that volunteer coaches have on these young girls. She said that through the program, each volunteer coach becomes a “life changer—changing the world, one girl at a time.”

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“It is incredibly rewarding to coach,” she said. “Not only will you empower girls, but you will empower yourself along this fulfilling journey. You will touch lives and see the difference you are making in young girls lives. You will become a hero to the girls.”

Volunteers do not have to be runners, according to Collins. The only requirement is that they be enthusiastic and committed to the healthy development of young girls. They must also be able to meet with the girls twice a week.

"I absolutely love being a part of GOTR," said GOTR Coach Anne Perry. "For me, coaching is two-fold: I get to connect with my community and spend time outside running while working with a great team to inspire young girls to take control of their own happiness and well-being.

"The young girls are so full of life and promise they are in turn inspiring to me. I love helping the girls move from a place of 'I can’t, it’s too far' to 'I just ran for 20 minutes.' They give me the push to be motivated in my own life."

For 10 weeks, the coaches lead small teams of girls in grades 3 to 5 through the program’s intentional curriculum that creatively integrates running. The coaches receive training and are provided detailed lesson plans as well as all the materials and guidance needed to implement the GOTR program.

Volunteers experience the impact of the program first hand and feel a sense of accomplishment that they have made a difference in the lives of these girls, according to GOTR.

GOTR has also noted that 97 percent of participants said they learned critical skills for managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others and making intentional decisions. Additionally, the program has proven that the girls who were the least active at the start of this program increased their physical activity by more than 40 percent.

The schedule for the sites in need of volunteers is as follows:

Mountainside--Deerfield School, Mondays/Thursdays, 3:15 - 4:30 p.m. (for Girls on the Run, grades 3 - 5) 

Clark--Brewer Rec Center, Mondays/Wednesdays, 3:45 - 5 p.m.(for Heart & Sole, grades 6 - 8)

If interested, contact Collins at jane.collins@girlsontherun.org.

Registration is also still open for girls through the end of September. Visit www.girlsontherunnj.org to register a child or to learn more about the program.