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How Girls on the Run Made Me a Joyful, Healthy and Confident Woman

By Carolyn Pandolfo on 11/28/2016 | Remarkable! People

There is an expression that says “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I never really considered myself a “lucky” person, even as a kid. It wasn’t until I won a raffle at school one day when I realized that not only was I preparing for an opportunity--but that my luck was about to change.

In 2004, I was a 7th grader at a school that supported health education and wellness initiatives. The administration did everything it could to encourage students to be active. At the end of the school year, the faculty held a “healthy activities raffle” for all students. Names were drawn at random and announced over the loudspeaker. Winners were called to the auditorium to claim a healthy activity prize (soccer balls, jump ropes, resistance bands, etc.). Since I had never won anything in my entire life, I didn’t expect my name to be called—but it was! I laughed, got excused from class, and took a walk to the auditorium. 

There was a teacher up on the stage handing out raffle prizes. I was excited to find out what I had won!  Much to my surprise, the teacher didn’t hand me a soccer ball, a jump rope, or a resistance band. She handed me an envelope. Curious, I opened it to find out what this could possibly mean. Inside the envelope was a certificate for Girls on the Run. 

That’s where my luck began to change. 

In the fall of that year, I was enrolled in the Girls on the Run middle school program at GOTR Pocono in Pennsylvania. As one of the older participants, I wasn’t sure how to feel at first. However, just weeks later I knew right away that I had a support system. The exuberant spirit of my teammates and the positive encouragement from my coaches gave me the confidence I needed to feel motivated and connected.

As a Girl on the Run, I learned the value of teamwork, community service, and encouraging others to succeed. I also learned how being healthy is the key to a strong heart and an open mind. The lessons I learned inspired me to want to help others the same way GOTR helped me. 

In 2009, I graduated high school and went off to college. Feeling inspired by what I learned in GOTR, I knew that I wanted to help others improve their health and well-being. Four years later, I earned a degree in Community Health Education and established my career. I joined the Cigna team in 2013 where I went on to work as a Health Educator. This joyful and confident girl was now a joyful and confident woman. I was meeting my goals and living life to the fullest. 

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

The following year, I relocated to a Cigna office in Pittsburgh, PA. Starting over in a brand-new city, I reached out to the local GOTR council to connect with the community. I started receiving e-mails about upcoming opportunities and felt so excited to get involved! Around that time, Cigna established a national volunteer program with GOTR. When I found out I had the chance to volunteer with GOTR - not only as an alum but as part of my career - I was absolutely thrilled!  I knew this was my chance to finally put all my preparation into the most important opportunity of all - to help other girls reach their potential.  

Since 2015, I have been very fortunate to volunteer with GOTR here in Pittsburgh. It is so rewarding to volunteer with the program that inspired me to become who I am today. GOTR gave me the strength to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to never stop working toward my goals. Winning a school raffle didn’t make me lucky; but the experience I gained surely did. No matter how old I get, I will always be a Girl on the Run! 

Cigna is a national partner for Girls on the Run International. Learn more about how they support girls' limitless potential here.

Carolyn Pandolfo


Carolyn Pandolfo is a Health Educator whose passion is promoting a culture of health, safety, and well-being. As a licensed Zumba® instructor, Carolyn enjoys teaching group fitness as well as rock climbing, hiking, and practicing yoga.

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