Local girls running for fun and nonprofits

 by Len Lear
Posted 2/24/22

More than 235 local girls from third through eighth grade are taking part in the second annual Coast to Coast Challenge with Girls on the Run, which is currently running through Feb. 28.

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Local girls running for fun and nonprofits


More than 235 local girls from third through eighth grade are taking part in a monthlong virtual fitness challenge with Girls on the Run Philadelphia (GOTRP), a partnership with Balance Chestnut Hill and Team Whetzel, a group of agents at Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty headquartered in Chestnut Hill.

The second annual Coast to Coast Challenge, which is currently running through Feb. 28, engages the girls from Team Los Angeles and Team Philadelphia in an interactive virtual race to recruit the most participants, log the most miles and raise the most funds. As team members work toward their collective goal of running, walking, biking or skiing the greatest distance, they can share the mission of Girls on the Run with their personal networks, supporting the collective goal of raising $15,000 for each council. 

“Anyone interested in joining the fun can still jump in anytime during the month of February and be part of the fun,” said Colleen Kelly Howard, executive director of GOTRP. “They can log any intentional exercise such as running, walking, or biking.”

The original organization started in Charlotte, NC, in 1996, and the Philadelphia council started in 2012. In the past year, it has run programs for girls at Allens Lane Art Center, Norwood-Fontbonne Academy and Shawmont Elementary School in Roxborough, among others, and now plans to grow. 

“We are also hoping to add Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, a longtime partner,” said Howard. ”We are seeking coaches for Norwood-Fontbonne, SCH and Allens Lane. For the spring we plan to have sites at Allens Lane, Norwood-Fontbonne, Emlen Elementary School and McMichael Park in East Falls.”

Fitness partner Balance Chestnut Hill presented the idea of a collaboration with GOTRP last year. As a business owner who had to intermittently shutter her health and wellness studio since the arrival of COVID, Amy Carolla and her colleague, Schuyler Nunn, could empathize with the challenges faced by nonprofit organizations in the community. They knew an engaging event and shared goal, using physical activity as its platform, would provide participants with the  motivation to stay active during these final days of winter. 

They also understood the importance of raising awareness and funds for their nonprofit partner, enabling GOTR to show up for every girl who needs their program, regardless of their ability to pay a registration fee. Team Philadelphia took last year’s title, registering 346 participants, traveling 24,000 miles and raising $11,000 in scholarship funds. In November, Carolla and Nunn were awarded Girls on the Run International’s “Remarkable Volunteer Award,” bestowed upon a select number of dedicated volunteers from across the country each year. 

Their award-winning efforts yielded funds that brought GOTR to four teams in Philadelphia last spring. “This challenge is a fabulous combination of everything that will keep us healthy, strong, connected and focused throughout February,” Carolla said. “Our goal is ultimately to inspire people to move for a great cause! The GOTR vision of moving in a fun and creative environment to build strength and confidence will inspire us to challenge each other.”

What started with 13 girls in one school in 1996 has grown to over two million girls nationwide and more than 100,000 volunteers. According to a GOTR mission statement, “We focus on the important connection between mind and body. Our research-based lessons and accessible physical activity instill confidence and nurture care and compassion in every girl.”

For many of the girls, GOTR and the connection it fostered have been a lifeline during the pandemic. Funds raised through the virtual challenge will help both councils subsidize registration fees for more than 68 percent of the girls they will serve this spring. 

“Finding strength in connectedness is a GOTR core value,” Howard said. “This February event embodies that value, bringing together a vision shared by GOTRP and Balance Chestnut Hill: to ensure that members of our community have all of the tools they need to foster social, emotional, spiritual and physical health.” 

To join Team Philadelphia for the February challenge, visit www,gotrphiladelphia.org. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com