In most running races, the celebration usually comes at the end, but when hundreds run in the nonprofit Girls on the Run Long Island’s upcoming Spring 2019 5K, the race is the celebration.

That’s because the June 1 foot race at Hofstra University in Hempstead marks the conclusion of their spring group running-based afterschool programs for elementary and middle school-aged girls that teach both personal development and how to give back to the community — largely by emphasizing the power of a positive attitude.

“Girls on the Run envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams,” says Doreen Dunne, council director of Girls on the Run Long Island.

The local chapter — which started in Nassau County in 2011 and expanded to Suffolk County in 2016 — is part of an Independent Council of Girls on the Run International, which has a network of more than 200 councils across the U.S. and Canada. There are more than a dozen Girls on the Run teams on Long Island.

Molly Barker founded Girls on the Run International in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina with 13 girls in one school. It has since grown with the help of almost 100,000 volunteers, serving hundreds of thousands of girls annually and more than 350 end-of-season 5K events nationwide.

Over the course of the 10-week program, girls in grades three through eight develop essential skills to help them navigate their worlds and establish a lifetime appreciation for health and fitness, organizers say. It aims to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running at twice-weekly practices, where coaches teach life skills through dynamic, conversation-based lessons, and running games. The combination of the research-based curriculum, trained coaches, and a commitment to serve all girls is what sets the group apart.

The program culminates with girls positively impacting their communities through a service project and being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5K event.

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.