Hill House launches inaugural Girls on the Run program

By John O’Hara

The Hill House’s newest children’s program received a great boon recently as local sneaker manufacturer New Balance announced its desire to bestow a ten thousand dollar grant upon Girls on the Run (GOTR) of Suffolk County.

GOTR, International is a renowned group, founded in North Carolina in 1996, which uses running as a springboard into a dialogue aimed at “educating and preparing girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living.”

As the result of a lengthy application process, the Hill House is pleased to be offering the program to fifteen young ladies for its inaugural year. The program commenced in September, and practices at Ebersol’s Red Sox Field.

The girls meet for an hour twice per week, and spend twenty to twenty-five minutes doing running and walking exercises, and the rest of the time is devoted to an interactive curriculum centered on a value set of eleven core principles.

“A lot of people have been very passionate about getting it here,” said councilor Megan Harvey. “We started over a year ago.”

GOTR is very particular about who they license said Hill House Marketing and External Relations Manager Brian Koslosky. They require a one, three, and five-year plan from each prospective licensee, said Harvey.

This inaugural group is drawn primarily from Hill House’s existing base of participants, consisting of children from Beacon Hill, Back Bay, South End, Charlestown, and the West End.

Harvey, along with fellow volunteer councilors Jen McNamara and Lori Mahoney are very focused on providing as positive an experience for the group as possible. The trio traveled to North Carolina for two days last summer to undergo intensive training in the GOTR curriculum.

“We are looking for slow and steady progress as opposed to taking off very quickly,” said Harvey. “They are seeking great consistency in the coaching. There had been another girls on the run in Boston and they lost their license because there was so much turnover.”

GOTR is targeted at the third to fifth grade range. The next step in the program is Girls on Track, which is aimed at young ladies between sixth and eighth grade. The Hill House is not currently running the program for the older group, but plans to in the future as the program matures.

Harvey stresses that, while it makes great sense to have this type of dialogue with middle school-aged girls, it is critically important to start with the girls when they are younger as to start them thinking in positive terms about themselves as soon as possible.

“Eight out of ten girls in kindergarten would rather be pretty than smart,” said Harvey. “It is so important to start working with this stuff from a very young age.”

While simply procuring licensure for the program was a coup in and of itself, the grant from New Balance will do much to help the program flourish in the years ahead.

Most of the money will go into marketing and outreach, said Koslosky, making it possible both to offer the program to more girls each year as it progresses, as well as to begin Girls on Track for the older set when the time is right, he said.

GOTR is a fall and spring program, with this first batch culminating their season with the five-kilometer Walter’s Run in West Roxbury in mid-December, as well as a community service project of the girls’ choosing.

The nature of the community service project is yet to be determined, but discussions are under way.

“We’ve been talking about it a little,” said Mahoney. “Ultimately, it’s the girls’ decision.”

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