5 Wonderful Ways to Volunteer at Girls on the Run
The catalyst behind every act of volunteerism is unique. Based on life experiences or personal values, we frequently develop an affinity and appreciation for specific causes. The outcomes of our life events, both positive and negative, often fuel our motivation to give back, offer insight and work toward a better future. And for some of us, a single memory can inspire our entire purpose. When we are familiar with the depth of a cause, we understand that change cannot happen until we turn our passion into action.
More regularly than not, acts of volunteerism are powered by a distinct combination of compassion and empathy. Volunteerism addresses the concerns of today by providing positive solutions for tomorrow.
Many people dedicate their careers to creating resources for important issues, whereas others support the cause by donating their time, talent or treasure. As a reader of the Girls on the Run International blog, we can already tell you are a dedicated supporter of causes that empower girls and women. And since you have this particular blog open, it’s clear you are ready to take your interest in Girls on the Run a step further. We are ready to welcome you aboard! Every girl has a spot on our team, and the same rule applies to our incredible volunteers.
In celebration of National Volunteer Appreciation Month, check out these 5 wonderful ways to volunteer at Girls on the Run. Alongside each description you will find first-hand testimonials of volunteers who have already made a difference in our program. Thank you to all current and future volunteers – you make our vision a reality!
(Note: While all five of these core roles exist across the entire council network, additional roles may vary per council. Contact your local council to learn more.)
The head coach works with a team of coaches to deliver the Girls on the Run program to participants. Many head coaches work closely with council staff to ensure their team is equipped for a successful season of transformation. Head coaches follow our research-based curriculum and supervise weekly lessons. They, along with the other coaches, lead program participants through each practice and serve as role models and mentors. Throughout the season, the head coach remains in contact with the council staff director and provides updates and highlights. Additionally, head coaches communicate directly with the caregivers of participants. Finally, together with assistant coaches, head coaches support their team at the culminating 5K Celebration.
“I have a lot of wonderful memories (as a head coach), but a few really stick out. One would be having a former team member come back as a high school volunteer coach . It was great to see how much the girls connected with her! Another memory that sticks out was the Covid season when the 5K was cancelled so we had to put it on in the school neighborhood. It was amazing to see how the coaches and parents worked to make it special for the girls and how many of their neighbors and friends were out cheering them on!” – Justine
“Being a Girls on the Run (head) coach and 5K buddy has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Initially, it was my love for running that made me want to be involved with GOTR. But, when I witnessed, firsthand, how this program changes girls’ lives… I was truly inspired. I watched girls transform!” – Stevie
Along with the head coach, the assistant coach leads lessons and serves as an encourager, cheer leader and superstar supporter during practice activities and 5K event. Each team has multiple assistant coaches to ensure all team members receive the attention and support to thrive in the program. They also accompany their team to the 5K Celebration and motivate girls throughout the event.
“My experience coaching has been amazing! Lots of laughs along with so many heartfelt moments. I actually work for GOTR but I decided to continue my commitment because I’ve built a bond with my team. It’s one thing to work behind the scenes but it’s been so much fun actually prepping for practice and seeing the fruits of my council’s labor. There’s also a gap in plus size coaches that I feel like I help fill. When girls see someone who looks like them, it helps them comfortable being themselves. GOTR has built a culture of being unapologetically you, but I know there’s less judgment felt when running, walking or during warm up (like if she can do it, so can I).” – Tryphose
“Being a GOTR (assistant) coach has been such a wonderful experience! I love seeing the girls each practice and feel honored sharing this part of their lives! I’m also so lucky to work with three other amazing coaches who are so passionate, supportive, and caring towards the girls and fellow coaches. I decided to become a coach because I have a passion for running and I also wanted to be a positive support for the girls. GOTR is more than I ever imagined, I love the curriculum and the important issues we cover including friendships, self-esteem, and giving back to the community.” – Angela
“I moved from Chile to United States nine months ago. My husband is studying for his master’s at the University of Georgia. I am a child psychologist who loves running so I thought it would be great to be an (assistant) coach at GOTR. I can spread the joy that running brings me while I encourage the girls to believe in themselves.” – Carolina
Serving as a junior coach is a fun and rewarding way for 16- to 18-year-old high school students to get involved with our program. Some of the benefits of being a junior coach include participating in a program that provides training, experience and service credits, positively impacting young girls and becoming a core part of an empowering community. Junior coaches have a similar role as the head and assistant coaches, with the added bonus of having a mentor coach. By working with mentor coaches, junior coaches (like the participants) learn new skills, deepen their ability to support their team and learn how to lead a full lesson within the curriculum.
“I decided to become a (junior) GOTR coach because of the impact it had on me during my five seasons as a participant! I absolutely loved bonding with the girls and helping them realize how to develop themselves as well as others! If I had to give advice to a future coach, I would say always be open-minded because things don’t always go as planned! Sometimes you have to allow yourself grace and allow the girls that as well. Just always keep a smile! – Amber
“I became a 5K buddy because I did Girls on the Run about five years ago and now, I’m a junior coach! I love it so much.” - Kassidy
5K Celebration Volunteer
At the end of each season, councils host a region-wide 5K Celebration. At the 5K, communities come together to celebrate all that Girls on the Run participants have achieved. The goal of each 5K is for girls to do their best and have fun! For some participants, the 5K itself is the highlight of the day. And for some girls, their favorite part comes before the event even begins when they are getting decked out with temporary tattoos, funky hair styles, colorful face paint, and accessories! Volunteers bring all of those components to life.
5K volunteer roles vary per council as some councils combine their 5Ks with other community events. Please note that the roles listed below may not be available at every GOTR 5Ks. Contact your local council to learn more! Some 5K volunteer roles include:
- Sparkle squad: Cheers on participants from the back of the back and ensure girls of every pace are encouraged no matter their speed.
- Sideline cheerleaders: Create home-made signs, ring bells, clap and cheer on participants as they pass by.
- Decorators: Help the council with hanging decorations, setting up tents, supporting vendors and more.
- Happy hair station team: Add special sparkle and color to participants hair with temporary hair color hair spray. Additionally, they also help girls with other accessories such as face paint and temporary tattoos!
- Registration coordinators: Organize and distribute registration packets, bibs and other event must-haves.
- Shop workers: Handle sales at the shop tent and help attendees find sizing in merchandise.
- Line markers: Hold signage that helps indicate where participants are located throughout the 5K.
- Hydration station workers: Distribute cups of water to 5K participants throughout the 5K. There typically are multiple hydration stations throughout the course.
- Clean-up team: Help remove decorations, tidy area, organize reusable decorations, break down tents/tents and more!
“I had the best time volunteering for Girls on the Run! 💪🏻👱🏼♀️ I love how this great nonprofit organization helps girls set goals and become stronger by running a 5K! I loved spray painting hair at the Happy Hair Station before the 5K event. We also made encouraging signs and cheered girls on at the water station!” – Kaylee
“It (5K experience) was great! As a dwarf woman, the chance to raise young girl’s confidence up no matter their background, disability, or any other factor society deems negative. I’m being a part of changing their mindset that every part of them is important. Every part is loved and appreciated. And I got connected through my sorority, Gamma Phi Beta!” – Ava
Throughout the 5K, many councils require every team member to have a 5K buddy. 5K buddies, who are individuals 18 years or older, participate in the 5K side-by-side with girls from start to finish. 5K buddies support team members at their own pace and motivate them throughout the event. Running is not required! Walk, skip, roll or push – all forms of movement are welcome as a 5K buddy!
“I first ran the 5K with some girlfriends and became aware of the buddy program. What an awesome opportunity to help a young girl celebrate an amazing accomplishment! I was a buddy several times, and now I am a coach. Crazy how much *I* learn from the girls!! Can’t even describe what an honor and blessing it is to serve in this fabulous program! 🙌🏼” - Prima
“Being a 5K buddy does not only impact the youth whom you were running with, but it also impacts your life personally! Further, in the 3.2 miles of past 5Ks, I have learned so much from any youth I have had the privilege to run with! Even if you’re not a runner, I think it’s important to go for it!” – Lydia