The amazing and exponential growth of the Girls on the Run program in Michigan's Great Southwest has achieved critical mass to the point that the program will become its own organization going forward.
After careful consideration and analysis, the United Way of Southwest Michigan Board of Directors has decided to transition the Girls on the Run program into a separate organization. Anna Murphy, President of the United Way of Southwest Michigan which has been operating the program says, “Since we brought this program to Berrien County in 2009, the growth has been nothing short of tremendous.” She adds, “Over the last two years or so we’ve realized that our organization isn’t structured in a way to keep pace with that level of growth. Spinning Girls on the Run off into its own organization really sets the program up with more capacity, which then leads to increased participation, and ultimately creates greater impact in the community.”
As of September 1, Girls on the Run of Berrien County will become a subsidiary organization under the Girls on the Run International umbrella. This new organization will have a local Executive Director and a local Board of Directors. United Way will continue to support the program financially, and will have representation on that board for the first two years to help ensure a smooth transition. Murphy says, “Our commitment is to maintain consistency and stability for everyone involved, from the site liaisons and coaches right down to the participants and their families, and our goal is that there will be very few differences in how the program runs.”
In its inaugural season in 2009, more than 200 girls participated in the program. Typical first year programs have far fewer participants. The most recent season in the spring of 2016 saw participant enrollment surpass 930 girls, with a total of 76 teams at 42 sites. Eleven of those sites were new locations that didn’t participate the previous year. In addition, over 254 coaches were recruited to deliver the curriculum. On top of that, the end-of-the-season 5K event had over 1900 participants, making it the largest 5K in Berrien County.
United Way's Murphy says, “We’re very proud of what this program has become, and what it has meant for the thousands of girls who’ve participated over the years.” She concludes, “We’re equally excited about the future of Girls on the Run of Berrien County, and can’t wait to see and support the incredible work that comes from this new venture.”
United Way is working very closely with Girls on the Run International to navigate through this transition. Murphy said that the administration at Girls on the Run International has been wonderful to work with. “Both organizations have a strong commitment to put the participants and the outcomes of the program at the forefront of every decision that is made.”
Stay tuned for identification of a new leader and board for this dynamic new unit working with people throughout the region.