Finding physical and spiritual support for her two daughters was important to Amy Hannon, an avid runner and Carmel Christian School mom.
She knew of Girls on the Run and other running programs that help teach and encourage girls at a young age the importance of staying active. But after looking for a Christian-based running program that addressed the Biblical and spiritual issues and needs elementary girls face, Hannon found herself at a dead end.
That’s why she took action into her own hands and started Godly Running Girls, a 12-week program for girls third through fifth grade that culminates in a 5K race.
“A lot of girls haven’t found their niche yet at this age. We have girls that have never done much of anything before come in and participate, but we also have girls that are very active,” Hannon said. “And we have great conversation, which is so fun.”
The program, which started at Carmel Christian with a full class of girls in 2010, has now also spread to Covenant Day School and Central Academy at Lake Park in Union County. Twice a week, the groups, which vary in size, meet after school, do a devotion and then take a running lesson outside. Hannon developed the 24 devotionals that cover any and every topic from prayer, gossiping, body image, modesty and how the girls are wonderfully and beautifully made, Hannon said. The devotions, she added, are based on girl things the students may be going through right now.
“We talk about how they can be living for God in their girl world,” Hannon said.
The program also helps the girls start conversations and create friendships with different girls and encourages participants to break barriers and cliques and help create inclusion.
This semester’s program will culminate with the girls participating in the Jingle Bell Walk/Run on Dec. 7 at the Blakeney Shopping Center in south Charlotte. At least one parent or adult is required to run with each girl, Hannon said, adding that ensures the parents have a stake in the program, too.
Hannon started running for fun when she was in college as a way to stay in shape. But after having her first daughter, she decided to set her goals high, and began training for her first marathon. Since, she’s participated in four marathons, including the Boston Marathon two years ago. She’s encouraged her own girls, now 12 and 14, to stay active, as well, running when they were younger. Both are now active dancers.
“When my girls were younger, it was hard to find something to keep them active, so that’s one of the reasons I thought it would be fun to get them out here,” Hannon said.
Hannon also likes to provide girls participating in the program a chance to see and hear from other successful women who have stayed active. Most recently, Stephanie “Pezz” Pezzullo, an Olympic hopeful in track, spent an afternoon sharing her testimony and training with Godly Running Girls at Carmel Christian. Pezzullo most recently placed 12th overall at the 2013 Chicago marathon while struggling with injury, but has a powerful story to tell.
“When I was introduced to Pezz, I just wanted her to share her testimony,” Hannon said, adding the story was such an encouragement to the young girls.
Find more information on the program, which is currently seeking nonprofit status to have a broader reach, and how to get involved as a coach or volunteer at www.godlyrunninggirls.com.