Girls run to build confidence

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"It builds confidence, fitness and physical activity," said Shay, 8th grader at Buffalo United Charter School.

Shay is just one of 615 young girls throughout Western New York benefitting from the Buffalo Bills Youth Foundation grant supporting the Girls on the Run program. This year, the Buffalo Bills Youth Foundation has donated $261,000 in grants to 46 charitable organizations committed to youth health and fitness. For the fourth consecutive year, the Bills support the Girls on the Run program.

"Our partnership with Girls on the Run represents a perfect opportunity for the Buffalo Bills to spread our PLAY 60 initiative to the youth of our community," said Mary Owen, Buffalo Bills Executive Vice President of Strategic Planning. "As an organization committed to youth health and wellness, we are ever-vigilant in our search for ways to support area programs with similar missions. As a runner myself, I am proud that the Buffalo Bills have partnered with Girls on the Run to help support their goal of helping young girls be physically active."

Fourteen students and their coaches from the Buffalo United Charter School joined in the announcement as the Buffalo Bills partnered with Girls on the Run.

"Our program is able to expand into schools and communities through our scholarship program that is made possible by the generosity of the Buffalo Bills Youth Foundation," Joyce said. "Through their funding, we are able to provide our program to girls who lack access to enriching after-school programs. Girls on the Run allows girls to realize their potential through a fun, interactive curriculum that integrates running and training for a 5K.  We are thankful to the Buffalo Bills Youth Foundation, which helps us reach young girls who truly benefit from our program."

The Girls on the Run team at Buffalo United Charter School meets two times per week for an hour and a half. The curriculum deals largely with mental health and coping strategies. The girls learn how to balance everyday life and working with a team each practice furing their meeting.

"Today's lesson was all about how to balance life, and last was how to cope with stress," said Joy Breckenridge, head coach of Girls on the Run. "We are also doing physical lessons that coincide with the lesson of the day.  Today we put different cards on the ground that read family, school, sports, and sleep. We had the girls try to balance with one hand and one foot on the different cards and see how difficult that was. Then we asked them what made it easier. They responded with focusing, holding onto a friend etc. Exercises like these help build better sound minds and bodies, and a lot of these girls need that."

The program has also grown in success due to the help and dedication of parent and teacher volunteers.

"We help to build their self-esteem and confidence," said parent volunteer Penny Payne. "So many of our girls have encountered unfortunate situations, and I like the whole idea of being able to encourage and motivate them. We let them know that they can make it."

Since the program kicked off a week ago, coaches and parents have already seen a great change in the girls.

"I have seen a lot of enthusiasm and hard work in the students," said Breckenridge. "I thought I would hear a lot whining and complaining, and I haven't heard one girl complain. They are supporting each other, and I have heard them running next to each other saying 'come on, you can do it,' so I'm seeing that growth. They really want to do it for themselves and for their teammates."

The Girls on the Run program is helping the students train for a 5K race, which will take place November 10th. The girls are already progressing immensely. Coach Breckenridge is looking forward to helping the students progress as they prepare for the race.

"I hope to see them do something they haven't done before, and prove to themselves that they can do something that is hard," said Breckenridge. "I want them to know that if they can do this, they can do anything that life will throw at them."

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