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Girls on the Run builds friendships, self-esteem

DeKALB – About 400 runners celebrated themselves by crossing the finish line sporting No. 1 bibs, tutus and other outfits for the Girls on the Run event Saturday at Hopkins Park.  

Girls on the Run of Northwest Illinois is a nonprofit, 10-week program each spring for elementary and middle school girls that teaches them about “standing up for themselves, standing up for others, and serves as a celebration of each girl,” Laurie Dayon, the program's executive director, said. Participants learn about bullying and self-esteem while creating friendships. 

The 5K run is the culmination of the program and offers the girls a chance to be winners, Dayon said. Each girl brings a running buddy, sports a No. 1 bib and her performance isn’t timed.  

“It provides a foundation for taking on other challenges in life,” Dayon said. “It’s not about running. We don’t care if you run, hop, skip, jump or do cartwheels. It’s about crossing the finish line.”

The Girls on the Run program is for third- through fifth-grade students, while a companion program, Girls on Track, is for sixth- through eighth-graders.

Girls had their own “cheering sections” of family members and friends when they crossed the finish line. Trinity Eissens, 10, of Sycamore, participated for her third year and her mother waited for her at the finish line.

“I’m in tears,” said Cindy Eissens of Sycamore. “She’s come so far and has done so well.”

Cindy Eissens said the running is a reward at the end of the program.

“I have lots of friends to hang out with now,” Trinity Eissens said. “And I love running.”

Piper Runge, 10, of Somonauk, said it was a great run.

“[This program] has made me learn to be a better person,” Runge said. “It’s fun.”

All participants received a medal at the run's end.

“This race is the foundation of the idea that they can do whatever they put their minds to,” Dayon said.

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