SH response to Girls on the Run has been slow

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home girls aren’t exactly running to participate in a nationwide program being introduced by the local Boys and Girls Club, which builds confidence and appreciation of health and fitness.

The club is working to start a Girls on the Run program in Lebanon and Sweet Home for girls in third through eighth grade. Although the final “goal” of the program is for participants to run or walk in a 5K (3.1-mile) event, there’s a lot more to the program than just running, said Kris Latimer, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Santiam, which operates both the Lebanon and Sweet Home branches.

Latimer said she suspects there may be a misconception that running is all it’s about.

“The running part of it is related to life skills, setting goals and learning how to achieve them,” she said. “It’s about learning how to communicate with peers in a positive way, setting goals, learning to live with a healthy lifestyle and taking care of your body, and standing up to peer pressure when you know it doesn’t align with your own personal philosophy. Also, the girls learn how to give criticism in a positive way.

“It’s really not a running or track program.”

Girls who participate will be “mentored” by students from the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Northwest in Lebanon. They will meet twice weekly, on Wednesdays and Fridays from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Sweet Home club, where they will participate in lessons and play games that teach skills emphasized in the program.

Thanks to scholarship money that Latimer and friends have raised by running in the Portland Marathon, participation cost for Sweet Home and Lebanon girls through the club is $50 for the 10-week program. The regular price is $150.

Close to 400 girls have signed up in the Willamette Valley for this year’s program, from Eugene to Salem. They will work up to the point at which they can run or walk the entire distance, and then will participate in a festival on the Oregon State University campus on May 31.

Latimer has participated in the festival several times herself, she said.

“It’s kind of a huge festival-type atmosphere,” she said. “There’s face painting, hair braiding – girly-girl kind of stuff. Some girls run it and some girls walk it, and everything in between.”

Shaylene Gill, program director for the Sweet Home branch, has visited local schools and talked with principals and teachers, and the club held a local meeting in January for parents interested in the program, and distributed fliers on two occasions to girls in local schools, Latimer said.

With a March 1 deadline looming, Lebanon has more than enough girls for a “team,” which typically numbers 10 or more, she said. But Sweet Home has only had a few sign-ups.

“To have a team, I have to have at least 10 girls,” she said. “Girls in Sweet Home could benefit hugely from this. A lot of families don’t pay attention to this stuff.”

Latimer said she grew up in a family that “was not your typical middle-class, perfect family” and her own experience got her interested in this program.

“I really believe in it,” she said. “I got connected with adults who took me under their wing. They really helped me realize I could do what I wanted.

“I read about this program years and years ago and I thought it was the coolest thing. I wanted to bring it to Lebanon. This is an opportunity and the club is really excited about this. I want to make it work.”

For more information on Girls on the Run, visit, or contact Shaylene Gill at (541) 367- 6421.