by Amity Justice, Special to the Roundup
The grass in front of Julia Randall Elementary School was a sea of bright pink and green last Saturday as more than 90 young girls and their running buddies registered for the Girls on the Run 5K celebration event.
The masked and caped superhero “Wondergirl” flew through the crowd, hugging, cheering and encouraging participants aged from 8 to nearly 70 years old.
The annual Girls on the Run 5K event culminates a 12-week after-school youth development program for girls in third through eighth grade.
The girls learn life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The program inspires girls to feel joyful, healthy and self-confident.
They work up to participation in a 5K (3.1 miles) run; complete with race bibs, cheering crowd, and a gold medal as they pass through the balloon arch at the finish line.
Each runner’s race bib proudly displays the number “1,” representing the non-competitive, positive nature of the event. The program strives to unleash confidence through accomplishment, while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.
The Eastern Area Health Education Center (EAHEC) has been a major sponsor of Girls on the Run of Eastern Arizona for the past three years, making this transformational program possible in Gila, Graham and Greenlee counties.
Last year some 200 councils across North America hosted 253 of the 5K events across the United States and Canada.
And who better to partner with than the Mogollon Heath Alliance (MHA) Community Health & Care Fair, also at Julia Randall Elementary School on the same Saturday?
Each November, MHA presents a Community Health & Care Fair as a one-stop destination for people to discover ways to support their healthy minds and bodies. Health care providers offered free and low-cost medical screenings and local clubs and groups pitched in.
On the lawn outside, colorfully clad running teams donned fairy wings, face tattoos, and sparkles at the Happy Hair Station provided by From Head to Toe Essentials salon. KRIM’s Stephanie Landers filled the area with great music, rounding out the celebration atmosphere.
The partnership proved hugely successful as it brought a cheering crowd to the start and finish lines of the 5K run as it also drew people to the health fair.
All the teams completed the course and gathered on the lawn for healthy snacks provided by Safeway and a raffle of prizes donated by local businesses.
Many participants said they felt so good about the run that they plan to register for Payson’s 5K Turkey Trot in a few weeks.