Some girls are beginning to run for their life.

Through physical activity and friendship, Girls on the Run has been empowering pre-adolescent young women since 1996.

Karen Tindal, executive director of the Knoxville area branch, said the organization's mission is to instill joy, health and confidence in girls.

"We teach life skills through dynamic interactive lessons and running games," Tindal said. "Our goal is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness."

Tindal joined the organization after her own daughter participated in the program.

"I saw that GOTR gave my daughter skills to deal with peer pressure and to learn to plug into her positive energy," Tindal said, "as well as to value and grow relationships with family and friends."

Hannah White, a freshman supply chain management major, joined the program as a young girl in her home state of South Carolina.

"I joined in the 4th or 5th grade and I loved it," White said. "I love to run now and it definitely helped foster that."

The girls in the program participate in a 12-week program ending in a celebratory 5K race. Each session includes a lesson, an activity and a run to prepare for the 5K. These sessions, led by coaches, cover topics like self-esteem, cooperation and teamwork.

"I coached three seasons with my daughter participating in 4th and 5th grade," Tindal said. "As a coach for GOTR, it gave me an opportunity to really see what 8 to 10-year-old girls think about."

White became a coach for Girls on the Run in search of ways to volunteer in Knoxville.

"I got an email from the Center for Leadership and Service on campus," White said. "I saw GOTR on the list of organizations and thought it was a great opportunity."

White said she believes being a coach was a great way to pass along the wisdom she was taught as a young girl in the program.

"We only had about three girls in our group, so it was really intimate and we got to know them really well," White said. "We were able to help them build self-esteem and see them grow."

Students can sign up to work the 5K, help with fundraising, or act as a running buddy during the events.

"Typically we have 10-12 UTK students volunteer as coaches and another 15-20 volunteer for our 5K events," Tindal said. "We try to work with each student's schedule and interests to place them in a volunteer role they will be happy with."

White said she believes volunteering can provide students with a break from stressful college life.

"Being on a college campus, you're not around kids a lot," White said. "It was nice to get away from that for a little while and go hang out with little kids that look up to you and respect you."

With GOTR's spring season beginning in February, the organization is looking for coaches and volunteers for the 5k, which will take place on April 19.

For more information, visit www.gotrknoxville.org.

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