Girls’ running program makes having fun no sweat

Left to right: Angela Diemel (teacher/running buddy), Ka’ili Sagapolu (participant) and Angie Davidson (teacher/running buddy).
Community running buddies (l-r) Brian Walters, Brian Lang, Norma Barrett and Doug Falls.

The non-profit organization Girls on the Run (GOTR) Roanoke Valley – a physical activity based, positive youth development program that empowers third through eighth-grade girls to recognize their inner strength and what makes them unique – held their season-ending celebratory 5k at Greenhill Park on December 2.

From September to November, approximately 65 girls participated in the GOTR program. During each bi-weekly practice over a ten-week curriculum, trained coaches broached such topics as how to develop self-confidence, being comfortable in your skin and finding ways to resolve conflicts.

“This program does an amazing job of teaching girls to set goals and work hard to achieve them,” GW Carver Principal Kristyn Schmidt said. “Many of the girls start off thinking that running a 5k is impossible, so to see them cross the finish line with smiles and tears of joy is incredible.”

To say that Athena Spencer is committed to helping young girls reach their full potential would be an understatement. “It is important that we raise strong girls into strong women,” said the Girls on the Run Roanoke Valley Council Director. “Completing the 5k gives the girls a tangible sense of achievement, showing them that with hard work and dedication anything is possible. Our three 5k sponsors – Mountain Junkies, Fleet Feet Sports Roanoke and Eta Epsilon chapter of Gamma Phi Beta – were very supportive.”

GW Carver team.

Sanaia Terry was one of the girls who participated in the 5k. The nine-year-old student at GW Carver Elementary wants to be an orthodontist doctor when she grows up. Crystal Terry, Sanaia’s mother, got her daughter involved with GOTR after hearing about it from a friend. “I wanted my child to be a part of Girls on the Run because I liked how they seek to inspire girls to be confident, respectful of themselves and others and be healthy, both physically and emotionally,” she said.

Dana Pitts and Meg Kirch have been joined GOTR over the last year. “As a mother of two girls and a teacher of hundreds, I believe instilling confidence – along with many other skills – is crucial for girls as they develop and approach their teen years,” Pitts, the GW Carver Elementary GOTR coach, said.

Gamma Phi Beta Virginia Tech Chapter and GOTR supporters cheering on the participants.

Added Kirch: “I am the Secretary of the Board for the Girls on the Run Roanoke Valley Council. Young girls are our future, and the world is seeing more and more women make a difference. The sooner we can start the discussion with young girls on how every person has the potential to do great things, the better chance each girl has to realize that they can accomplish anything with the right attitude and mindset.”

Parents interested in their daughter joining Girls On The Run Roanoke Valley can send an email to for more information.

Girls on the Run Roanoke Valley was established in 2011 and serves Roanoke County, Roanoke City, City of Salem and Botetourt County. “No one has ever been turned away for financial reasons,” Meg Kirch said. “This organization is dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to pursue her dreams boldly.”

Brian Walters, Abigail Atwood and Kari Decker (l-r).

more recommended stories