Working with Girls On The Run has made me put myself out there to champion a cause I care about.
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Professional Role: Social media manager, Oracle
What is the mission of Girls on the Run and how are you involved with the organization?:
Girls on the Run (GOTR) is a non-profit after-school program that encourages girls in the 3rd through 8th grade to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running. The program culminates in the girls running a 5k.
I learned about GOTR after running the More/Fitness/Shape Women’s Half Marathon and GOTR was the official charity sponsor. I found their pamphlet in my race bag and it struck a chord with me, so I looked into getting involved. I ended up volunteering at their spring 5K, which is what their whole program is based around. Soon after, I joined the SoleMates committee, which plans events for the chapter’s team of charity athletes
How did you decide that GOTR was the charity you wanted to commit the majority of your giving to?:
The New York charity scene seems really overwhelming and for a while I couldn’t figure out how to get my foot in the door. One year I thought about volunteering on Thanksgiving, and someone told me that you have to be volunteering for years to get the coveted Thanksgiving spots. I didn’t realize it was so hard to offer my time and skills.
I did some volunteering for New York Road Runners as part of the requirement to gain entry into the marathon, but I definitely felt more like a cog in the machine. It was a really well organized event, but nobody ever asked me my name.
GOTR feels like an intimate organization even though it’s international. Everyone’s so approachable and they made it so easy for me to get involved. It was then I realized that volunteering doesn’t have to feel difficult. It just felt right from the start.
You’re an active runner—how much do you think that had an influence on the charity you gravitated towards?:
Having that personal interest is huge. It’s keeping me going and makes the experience so much more meaningful. A lot of these commitments are based around things like running or cross-training—things I want to be doing anyway. So if I already have a 10-mile run on my calendar, why not plan something for the group and train with the other runners. And when I’m planning events, runs, or workout activities for the group, it’s more likely to be successful because I know it’s something I would want to do myself.
Is there a specific moment that stands out in your volunteer experience and keeps you motivated?:
When I volunteered for the 5K, I was a running buddy, which means I was paired with a girl and ran the race with her. It was her first year in the program and I could tell she was nervous. During the race, we thought of ways to make it fun so we took skipping breaks and talked about what she had learned during the program. What was really awesome was that each time her teammates would run by, they would cheer and encourage her and I could tell that really motivated her.
I didn’t get into running until I was in college. I remember running a mile in grade school and feeling like it was torture. But it’s great seeing these girls having so much fun and feeling like “I get to do this,” versus “I have to do this.” It gives them a huge sense of accomplishment.
Seeing this, I wish I had a program like GOTR when I was growing up. I was so overscheduled but I never had a program that helped me connect the dots between all these activities and my personal development. There was a lot of bullying that went on at my school and this could have been really beneficial.
How do you think giving has impacted other aspects of your life?:
I’ve learned things I haven’t been able to develop at my day job. I’m usually not a great public speaker and can be shy when it comes to chatting people up. Working with GOTR has made me put myself out there to champion a cause I care about.
It’s also changed the entire running experience for me. It was mostly a solo activity at first, but GOTR got me into group runs. Having a buddy makes the miles go by so much quicker. Now I swear by it. I ran a half marathon recently and GOTR had set up a cheering station. Knowing people were there waiting to cheer me on was such an amazing experience. Because of that, I signed up for the full marathon as a Girls on the Run SoleMate.
What advice do you have for others who are looking to find a way to give?:
Don’t overthink it. If it starts to feel like a burden, it might not be the best fit. Look for something that you may already be interested in or are already doing. I used to think about it in terms of where I can make a huge impact, but that was really hard. It doesn’t have to feel like a big humanitarian effort to be worth your time.