‘Girls on the Run’

GVL / Sara Carte - Gamma Phi Beta sets up a booth for their Gamma Phive K run that is being held on April 17, in the Kirkhof center on Monday, Apr. 11, 2016.

Sara Carte

GVL / Sara Carte – Gamma Phi Beta sets up a booth for their Gamma Phive K run that is being held on April 17, in the Kirkhof center on Monday, Apr. 11, 2016.

Ashlyn Korienek

Ask a middle school student to spend their free time scampering along a track twice a week, and most would complain about it. Despite the large commitment, thousands of young girls across the nation boldly participate in Girls on the Run to build self-confidence and lifelong skills.

From April 11-15, Grand Valley State University’s Gamma Phi Beta is holding a Girls on the Run awareness week leading up to Sunday’s Gamma Phive K race. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the third annual Phive K run raises money for local chapters of Girls on the Run around West Michigan.

Facing head-to-head, the week features a point based competition between GVSU Greek sororities and fraternities. On the final day, the winner receives $100 toward their personal philanthropy.

Jeana Gondek, president of Gamma Phi Beta at GVSU, said this year’s goal is to raise $2,000. On April 12, a total of $570 online donations were raised by 27 donors. She said all proceeds will be donated, as the run is no cost to the sorority.

“This is a recurring event but it is still rather new,” Gondek said. “This will be our third year, and we’re beyond excited about it. We hope this year is more successful than last, because the cold windy weather last year scared away some of our runners.”

Girls on the Run is a nonprofit program empowering young girls to take charge of their futures. The lessons are twice-a-week in small teams and focus on health, self-respect and life skills through movement incorporated activities.

Taught by certified Girls on the Run coaches, the curriculum has three parts: personal understanding, teamwork and how to shape the world at large. At the end of each three-month session, the girls participate in a Girls on the Run 5K race.

The programs offered include an after-school program for third-grade to fifth-grade girls, a new program for sixth-grade to eighth-grade girls called “Heart and Sole” and “Life on Track” allows for discussion around mature topics such as cyber-bullying.

“I think a 5K is a perfect way to incorporate both of our missions, because a run can be both mentally and physically challenging to accomplish,” Gondek said. “In the end it is so rewarding. When you cross that finish line, you’re displaying strong passion and dedication to accomplish a determined goal.”

Rebecca Jacob, philanthropy chair for GVSU’s Gamma Phi Beta, said the Phive K encourages attendees to teach the younger generation of girls their potential to become strong leaders, which is often discouraged by society.

“In today’s society, it’s hard for young girls to have high self-esteem when they are influenced by nearly thousands of messages,” Jacob said. “They are forced to believe that society and the media perpetuate the ‘right’ kinds of role models to follow. We need to build up those who will lead them in years to come, and that’s the main goal of Gamma Phi Beta.

“In a world where women are discouraged from being confident and happy with themselves, we need those who are willing to show young girls to never let anyone dull their sparkle.”

By promoting the event through social media and by word-of-mouth, Jacob said the 2016 event has increased in participants compared to previous years. Nearly 80 people are currently signed up for the Phive K.

“The most challenging part about planning the Phive K is encouraging students to come out and run it,” Jacob said. “With exams being around the corner, we have been planning it as a healthy stress-relieving activity that benefits not only a fantastic cause, but themselves as well.”

Registration is $25 to the public along with a $2.50 sign up fee, which includes a T-shirt. For GVSU students the cost is $20. The event is located on the Allendale Campus.

Those interested can register or donate at www.runsignup.com/Race/MI/Allendale/gphib5k.