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Girls on the Run: More than a running program

Meghan Ruder (front) and Katie Fornelius, members of Girls on the Run at TTE, are all smiles as they work toward their goal of completing a 5K.

By Lisa Nicklanovich; photo courtesy of Jennifer Kendall

Renee Ziegler’s daughter Emma, who is in fourth grade at Timber Trail Elementary School (TTE), has two brothers but she calls the twenty- eight girls in her Girls on the Run program (GOTR) her sisters. Ziegler, who attended the Naval Academy and was an Intelligence Officer for the Navy for ten years, started the program at TTE after her family moved from Virginia to Castle Pines. She still takes on a few projects a year for the Navy but she said, “being a site coordinator for Girls on the Run feeds my soul.”

Ziegler explained that the nationwide GOTR program is for third through eighth grade girls and “is much more than a running program.” The girls meet twice a week after school for twelve weeks with volunteer coaches who are trained and certified to teach a curriculum that builds confidence and promotes health and wellness. Janell Lewis, who started the program with Ziegler at TTE, was urged by her daughter Julia to bring the program to Renaissance Expeditionary Magnet School (REMS) when she transferred there. “It was what she cared most about in changing schools!” Lewis said. “The girls build each other up with fun activities and the transformation is incredible.”

Topics build on self-awareness, connecting with others, and the power a group has to make a difference in the world. Last fall, the girls at REMS delivered coats and snow boots to Burmese refugees in Denver as their service project. Running is creatively incorporated into the program and the girls work toward completing a 5k run.

Ziegler said, “The girls will use these tools for the rest of their lives. Being healthy and positive, self confident, owning who you are, establishing and completing goals, never giving up — will all carry these girls far.” Brenda Bushey, a parent at TTE said, “My daughter Sarah is surprising herself with what she has accomplished with Girls on the Run. The positive encouragement from all the coaches and other girls is amazing.”

The next 5k is 9 a.m. May 11 at City Park in Denver and will be attended by all local Girls on the Run programs. Cheer from the sidelines or consider volunteering as a “running buddy,” encouraging the girls to cross the finish line. For additional information, visit



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