by BARB BERGGOETZ
Chelsea Blanchard says she was lucky to have talented cross country and track coaches when she was a runner—from the time she was in middle school through her time at Indiana University. Now, the Clear Creek Elementary School art teacher is a coach with Girls on the Run (GOTR), training a new generation of runners while also helping them build confidence and make smart life choices.
“I feel like I have been positively impacted by sports, particularly running,” says Blanchard, 29, head coach for Clear Creek’s program, one of three in Monroe County Community School Corporation (MCCSC). “Girls on the Run is about self-esteem and how girls view themselves,” she says. “By the end of the season, every girl runs a 5K race, and that is huge. It’s just amazing what they accomplish.”
GOTR, an international nonprofit, offers 10-week physical development programs in all 50 states and Canada. Clear Creek and Arlington Elementary schools started programs in 2017; Binford Elementary School started in 2018. Nearly 75 girls participated in last spring’s programs.
Volunteer coaches, often teachers or community members, teach the curriculum and train girls during twice-weekly, 75-minute after-school meetings. Local programs operate under the Central Indiana council, one of about 200 councils that have served 1.5 million third- to eighth-graders since 1996.
Lorri Brune, executive director of GOTR Central Indiana, says GOTR is more than a running club. Lesson themes relate to eating healthfully, expressing emotions, solving conflicts, choosing friends, using positive self-talk, and other life choices.
“In a fun way, we get them to exercise,” adds Brune, whose council oversees programs for 1,500 girls in 11 counties. “But we also create a team atmosphere so they can share achievements and build camaraderie.”
Bloomington GOTR programs operate from mid-February to May, when girls participate in the Star Power 5K, sponsored by Coordinated School Health and MCCSC, says Brune. The local program gets financial support from IU sorority Gamma Phi Beta. Individual cost is $140, and scholarships are available.
For more information, visit gotrci.org.