READING, Pa. –
Despite a steady rain and muddy puddles, Girls on the Run 5K runners and onlookers alike were in positive spirits as they made their way around the Penn State Berks campus race course.
Over 480 pairs of grade-school girls and their running partners ran on Saturday morning in the 5K hosted by Girls on the Run of Berks County, a local council of the parent organization Girls on the Run International.
For one running pair the day was especially important. Shailyn Molina, 9, of Spring Ridge Elementary School was accompanied by her father, Spc. Jason Molina, a Soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve and a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“It really means a lot to me that he came and ran with me at my pace,” said Shailyn Molina.
Spc. Molina, a Reading-area native, nodded, but argued it was in fact Shailyn who motivated him on the run.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world being here today,” he said. He previously spent two years away from his family while deployed to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division.
“In today’s age, where there’s so much negativity in the world, I always tell her that she can do whatever it is she wants to do, as long as she puts her mind to it,” Spc. Molina said.
Running is just one aspect of a program that teaches girls to stand up for themselves, be positive and make healthy decisions said Nicole Fryer, the 5K event chair.
“It’s all about giving girls limitless potential,” said Fryer, a resident of Shillington, Pennsylvania.
Girls on the Run of Berks County has been organizing biannual 5Ks for girls since fall of 2013, said Sandra Krafczek, executive director of the local organization. On Saturday, over 27 local schools and communities sites participated.
“It’s our largest season ever,” said Krafczek. “Since 2013, we have served 3,238 girls in the Berks County area.”
Girls on the Run International, the parent organization, was started in 1996 and supports over 200 local councils across all 50 states. They offer their positive youth developmental program to girls between the ages 8 and 13.