XENIA — There’s a bunch of girls running around Arrowood Elementary School.
But it has nothing to do with gym class or recess.
The group of nearly 30 are part of an international non-profit known as Girls on the Run, a physical and positive youth development program that encourages having a positive self-image and teaches strategies on how to lead a happy and healthy life. The 12-week program incorporates running into each curriculum-based lesson.
Led by coaches Jenny Paxson, Jamie Connor, Christine Toscani, and Jenni Davis, the team did a community-impact project where members decided to raise money for the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals. They raised nearly $1,400, $1,000 of which was given to SICSA Thursday during a school assembly.
But that was only part of it.
When third-grade teacher Patrick Toscani heard about the fund-raising effort earlier in the school year, he said he would shave his head in support of the project if the girls hit their goal. And Toscani followed through on his promise, with Principal Travis Yost serving as the barber.
“I think its a good program for the girls in this school,” Toscani said. “Free haircut. You can’t beat that.”
While the girls — and their classmates — had more than a few giggles as Toscani’s jet-black hair floated down to the gym floor, they understood the bigger picture of what Girls on the Run is about.
“It’s a good experience because you get to show who you are and to show your talents,” said fifth grader Alexis Ventura. “You’re beautiful on the inside and out.”
The team meets twice a week for practice, which always involves some type of running. That aspect is why Nevaeh Cunningham, a fourth grader, joined.
“I saw that it was about running and I wanted to try something new,” she said. But Cunningham also quickly picked up the overall theme of GOTR.
“You can be yourself and make a difference,” she said.
There is one big event left for the team, a 5k race Sunday at Welcome Stadium in Dayton. According to GOTR’s website, completing the 5k gives the girls a tangible understanding of the confidence that comes through accomplishment as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.
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