Allison’s love for Girls on the Run comes from a desire to inspire other through fitness, to engage others in healthy lifestyles and to empower young girls. Team sports have always been a part of Allison’s life, and she enjoys the camaraderie of such and is honored to help young girls build friendships and confidence, along with a love for running, through the program. Allison began volunteering for Girls on the Run NYC in 2006, and started in 2007 as a volunteer coach, and in 2012 transitioned into her current staff role as Executive Director.
How long has Girls On The Run been around? How about the New York chapter specifically?
Girls on the Run began in 1996, and Girls on the Run started in New York City in 2006. We now serve all five boroughs of New York City at school sites and community sites with our running-based youth development curriculum, and we are excited to continue to expand into new neighborhoods!
What got you started with Girls On The Run? What has inspired you to keep building awareness of the group and developing initiatives to grow participation?
I’ve had the joy of being involved with Girls on the Run since 2006 when I moved to New York City, emailed the incredible leaders who founded the council here, and asked how I could get involved. Over the next seven years I served as a coach at elementary school and middle school sites in Manhattan. I made some of my best friends through coaching and volunteering, and with my fellow coaches I saw girls build leadership and friendships through this powerful program. At the end of 2012, I stepped into the staff role of Executive Director and am proud of the continued growth of the organization to reach more girls and to continue to serve students from all backgrounds, with over 70% of our students participating through financial assistance. The powerful stories I hear from girls about the impact our program makes on them inspires me. Each season when I visit teams, I hear brave girls share with me that they struggled in some way before Girls on the Run – with confidence, with making friends – and that the skills they’ve learned have allowed them to be more comfortable sharing with others or going into a math test feeling like they can do it. I hear from parents that their daughters have built confidence in their academic work, and in speaking up in class and even sometimes on stage in school events that they feel wouldn’t have happened before Girls on the Run. I also hear from girls who LOVE running and are so excited to have a place to enjoy this physical activity with friends, and to encourage their parents and family to join them too! From the hundreds of stories I know, that each one beams with positivity and feeling supported is what motivates me in the work that I do and our organization does to inspire girls to know their limitless potential.
What is it about the sport of running that helps connect people? How does GOTR use running to build community and drive change for young girls?
In 2016, I worked with national researchers to show the impacts of physical activity alongside an intentional leadership-focused curriculum – how we can all work together to create proven social and emotional growth for girls. Through it all, I’m reminded of the strength of running, the power of putting one foot in front of the other, and the meaningful opportunities that we’re given once we step outside. Through running based games and activities, we teach life skills and we bring together positive adult mentors with girls in 3rd-8th grade. We focus on a mastery climate, allowing each girl to set their own individual lap goals at sessions and to set the goal of completing the 5k – be it walking, skipping, dancing, leaping, running, or most often – a combination of all of these.
Do you have any goals for this year’s Brooklyn Mile?
I’m excited to be in the women’s open, with a number of other amazing Girls on the Run volunteers, and keep striving to hit a personal best – while it’s been 18 years, I still think I’ve got it in me to get back to my high school times and I’m excited to be out there with others motivating and pushing me along!
What’s your favorite sneaker, and where’s your favorite place to run?
I love Brooks Ghost and have picked up many a pair from Brooklyn Running Company. I love running the bridges and Prospect Park locally, but when I return to my hometown in North Carolina and hit the open country road for miles – I appreciate the wide open space, the beautiful scenery, and the solitude to think that I didn’t quite realize was so meaningful when I ran in these same places growing up. And, I’m always up for a fun running trip!
How can people help out with GOTR or learn more about the group’s initiatives?
We’d love to see people at our end of season 5k on June 13 – you can sign up to run or volunteer at gotrnyc.org/5kinfo
! We have a fall season and a spring season each year, and at the end of each season hundreds of girls come together with their coaches and families. It’s an event that’s full of joy, and the very first thing I did as a volunteer. It’s a great way to see our program in action! We also invite you to find out about ways you can volunteer, and coach, throughout the year at gotrnyc.org/volunteer