Cold doesn’t deter Sunday’s Girls on the Run celebration

Published 12:10 am Monday, January 8, 2018

Runners, buddies and volunteers close out winter season

Girls on the Run Event Coordinator Amy Spear looked out over the expansive soccer fields at Salisbury Community Park Sunday afternoon and thought of the amazing growth of Girls on the Run locally.

She said, “We started in 2011 with just one school in Rowan County and it has now grown to an average of 10-12 schools each semester. It has been a joy and pleasure to watch Girls on the Run grow and flourish, particularly in Salisbury and Rowan County. There is still room for growth and we are always excited to start new local teams. We are equally excited about hosting our 5K at Salisbury Community Park. This is a new venue for us and we are thrilled about the beautiful and quiet setting that the park provides, special thanks to our friends at Salisbury Parks and Recreation.”

Girls on the Run offers programming for girls in third-fifth grades and sixth-eighth grades at local elementary and middle schools. The fall program had 450 girls participate and approximately 35 percent of these received either a full or partial scholarship.

Local sponsors and generous community supporters allow GOTR to continue to offer scholarship assistance each season. With 30 schools within Rowan and Iredell counties participating this fall, more than 100 volunteer coaches were engaged. Coaches are often teachers, school staff or parents. Volunteers find coaching to be a great way to get involved with GOTR.

Jennifer Summers, Rowan and Iredell GOTR Council founder said, “Fall 2017 marks our 20th season of GOTR of Greater Piedmont. As the founder of this chapter, I am awestruck by the support, participation, volunteers, and love that envelopes this program.

“I am proud that we have never denied a single scholarship request and continue to work to reach those that may not be able to afford the luxury of participating in this life-changing curriculum. The program is not just about running but about forward movement which opens up minds and hearts to the limitless potential of our girls. Thank you, Salisbury for welcoming our race to your community!”

One of those 100 volunteer coaches was Lisa Cartner at Faith Elementary. She said, “This day is all about having fun and celebrating the life skills we have learned over the past 10 weeks. As a coach, I have had an opportunity to get to know eighteen incredible young ladies that have the potential to change the world. As a board member, today represents the hard work of an amazing group of volunteers that work day in and day out to make this a special event for each girl and her running buddy.”

The 5K (3.1 miles) run began at 2 p.m. with each school starting separately. GOTR participants each had a running buddy during the event which was held with the temperature in the upper 20s after being postponed from Sunday, Dec. 9, because of snow.

One of the running buddies was Karl Johnson of Statesville, who ran with 11-year-old Kayden Flowers from East Iredell Elementary School. Kayden was the first finisher Sunday afternoon following her initial year in GOTR. Johnson said, “Kayden called me and asked me to be her running buddy. Today was the first time that we have ran together and we knocked about four minutes off her best time. I’m Kayden’s uncle.”

Kayden enjoyed the course, especially the part around the lake. She said, “There were 18 in my GOTR group. I hope to do it again next year. Everyone was very supportive of me.”

From Woodland Heights Elementary School in Mooresville, 10-year-old Erin Bienstock has been going to GOTR meetings since before she was old enough because her mom is a coach. Erin said, “I really like to run and I especially like the message we learn about treating everyone nice through GOTR. It was a little hard to breathe in the cold but the course was easy to run. All of this has really inspired me.”

Spear said, “We are grateful for our remarkable local sponsor, Novant Health, since they have joined us in our commitment and mission to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident. Additionally, we are proud to partner with Salisbury Rowan Runners who are instrumental in our fall 5K and we could not be more appreciative of their support.”

New this spring, Girls on the Run will be hosting a team at the Hurley YMCA (Monday/Wednesday 5:30-6:45 p.m.) to offer the program at an alternative time than immediately after school. This is a popular option for families who are not able to pick up during after school hours.

For more information about the Girls on the Run program, becoming a volunteer or sponsorship opportunities, visit