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Joy Changes the Atmosphere

When I first came on as an intern for Girls on the Run, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew the program combined running and instilling positive values in young girls, which are two things I’m extremely passionate about. I knew it would be a good fit for me, but what I hadn’t anticipated was just how much it would exceed my expectations. The relationships I’ve built with my supervisor, co-coaches and girls have been deep and long-lasting. The breakthrough I’ve seen with individual girls — as well as myself — throughout the season has deeply touched me. If there is one thing that sums up my experience at Girls on the Run, as well as the heartbeat of the program, it was our end-of-season 5K.

Going into the 5K, I was excited, but also nervous. We had been working toward this event the entire season. In my mind, I had always envisioned a sunny day with cool, crisp air where everyone gathered outside to celebrate all they accomplished over the season. However, waking up that Sunday morning, I encountered the opposite.

The weather was not ideal, to say the least. It was around 35 degrees out, super windy and pouring rain — the kind of rain that pelts your face when it comes in contact with your skin because it can’t decide whether it’s rain or snow. This wasn’t what I envisioned, and worry began to cloud my mind as I thought of the girls and whether they’d have fun celebrating their accomplishments throughout the season.

People began to pile into the 5K, and what I observed touched me greatly. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was filled with joy — the kind that’s contagious. My job that morning was to take pictures and videos to document the day. No matter where I pointed the lens, you’d find people smiling, laughing and having an absolute blast. Even during the actual run, when the rain and wind picked up, the joyous atmosphere just continued to grow. People were smiling and laughing as they ran, giving each other high fives and hugs. Watching everyone reach the finish line was one of my favorite moments of the entire season. It was more than just a team or a community supporting one another; it was a family. It didn’t matter what the weather looked like on the outside — the hearts of all our participants and volunteers were able to outshine the gloomy day.

What I experienced that day truly left me in awe as I saw the impact of this program displayed in a single morning. What the girls learned throughout the season took root, and it showed in their attitudes during the 5K. What I learned at the culmination of the program is that our youth are incredible. What they learn and how they carry themselves can turn a gloomy day around and change the atmosphere completely. I’m just grateful to have been able to experience and learn from them.

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