“You’re not smart enough, thin enough or pretty enough.”
Those are just some of the messages girls can hear from the TV and other media, their family and friends as they navigate the complicated world of middle school. These messages are capable of leaving a lasting impact and morphing many girls from who they are into who they think they should be.
Amity Justice and Holly Crump hope to create a place where girls feel safe enough to explore their unique talents, make a few new friends and even complete a 5K run/walk.
Justice and Crump are launching Girls on the Run in Payson this August.
The national program started 15 years ago to equip pre-adolescent girls with “the necessary tools to embrace their individual strengths,” according to the Girls on the Run Web site.
There are 173 Girls on the Run groups nationwide with more than 80,000 girls participating in the program last year.
When Crump learned of the program more than a year ago, she knew it was a perfect fit for the Rim Country.
Crump, network director for the Arizona Rural Women’s Health Network, recruited the help of her daughter Justice to help get the program running.
“She is involved with women’s health and when she found this she came to me and said “We need this program here,’” Justice said.
The 12-week after-school program centers on training for a 5K event in Flagstaff with lessons on dealing with body image, resisting peer pressure, making healthy decisions and giving back to the community mixed in.
“Through interactive activities such as running, playing games and discussing important issues, participants experience the joy of simply being themselves,” organizers say.
The program is volunteer-run and participants meet twice a week for 75 minutes. Third through fifth grade students will meet at Julia Randall Elementary School and sixth- through eighth-graders, at Rim Country Middle School.
The cost to attend is $150 and includes a T-shirt, water bottle, a snack at each session, handouts, registration for the New Balance Girls on the Run 5K. Scholarships are available. Every girl will receive information on the program at school.
At the New Balance 5K, girls are matched up with a volunteer running buddy, either a community member or the girl’s parent, who walks or runs with them for the untimed, uncompetitive event.
Each girl wears a bib with the No. 1 on it.
Last year, Justice served as a running buddy at the event, accompanying a third-grader. Throughout the event, the girl and Justice ran, walked and even skipped.
At one point, the girl looked up to Justice and said, “I love this program. The only thing I don’t love about it is the running.”
Since the Flagstaff program launched roughly three years ago, organizers have seen the number of participants grow from 19 to 187.
Justice said she wished the program was around when she was a girl.
“The things they teach in this program I am just now learning at 37,” she said.
Payson’s program kicks off Aug. 31 and runs through mid-November.
Crump hopes to eventually expand the program to Globe and Tonto Basin.
“This program teaches them the importance of a healthy lifestyle,” Crump said. “It plants awareness.”
To help raise money for Girls on the Run scholarships, Crump and Justice are hosting Luna Fest, a women’s film festival June 21 from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Rim Club clubhouse.
Tickets are $25 and 85 percent of the proceeds go to Girls on the Run with 15 percent going to breast cancer research.
The event includes dinner, films and a silent auction. Crump is looking for businesses to sponsor the event and donate items for the auction. E-mail Justice at amitymeredith
@gmail.com for more information.