This blog shares the story of how Diakon Adoption & Foster Care staff members went the extra mile to help adoptees participate in Girls on the Run®, a non-profit program that inspires girls to recognize their inner strengths and celebrate what makes them unique.
As an affiliate council of Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries, Girls on the Run – Lehigh Valley delivers sessions involving 10 weeks of dynamic discussions, activities and running games for girls in third through fifth grades, with each season concluding with a celebratory 5K event, completed by participants and “running buddies.”
JoAnn Carter, mother of two adoptive girls (Daysia 11, Jada 9)
My interest in Girls on the Run began when my girls brought home a flyer from Parkway Manor elementary school announcing the program. I thought it would get them off the couch and give them a well-rounded opportunity that teaches them confidence. I also thought it would be great to have the girls be part of a running team.
My running partner quickly surveyed me.
I knew she was probably wondering how she had ended up with this “old guy” as her Girls on the Run “running buddy.” Sensing her skepticism, I attempted to break the ice with a variety of questions about her interests. Eventually, we connected a bit on the topic of music as she shared the names of favorite musicians such as Selena Gomez.
At the age of 9, my daughter was beautiful and bubbly, intelligent and funny. Always tall for her age, she possessed a body built for strength and she was using that strength to become a decent swimmer.
Nine was a year of significant growth—and a year of doubt. This would be the year that she became more sensitive about how she looked and the size of her clothes. In spite of every bit of praise I could muster about who she was and the amazing things she could do because of her height and strength, she only understood that her body was different from many of the other girls’.
And like many of us, she didn’t like being different. She longed to blend in.
Earlier this month, 60 young adults ages 18 to 24 traveled to Washington, D.C., for the 2015 Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Experience. It was a wonderful event that brought together young people with personal experience in the foster care system with their congressional representative for a chance to learn from one another.
For two days, they studied issues trending in the foster care world before meeting with their congressman and getting to work. It was an empowering experience for these young adults, and one I was thrilled in which to participate.
Having been in foster care myself for six years, I was there to share my experience with these younger “brothers and sisters” and let them know there are many organizations and foster care alumni ready to lend a hand.
Girls on the Run for third- through fifth-grade girls and Girls on Track for sixth- through eighth-grade girls are non-competitive, curriculum-based programs designed to build self-respect and educate participants about issues affecting girls every day.
The girls play fun games to encourage physical movement with each lesson centered on an age-relevant theme such as healthy nutrition, gossiping, bullying, and how to stand up for yourself. The girls complete a community-service project and participate in a non-competitive 5k race, the culminating event for each session of the program.
Here are comments from mentors and the council director about the current program….
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 24.7 million children live apart from their biological fathers; many have little or no contact with them at all. The consequences of this statistic are overwhelming, considering that children lacking a father figure in their lives are at an increased risk of mental illness, behavioral issues, poverty, suicide, and substance abuse, and they are 20 times more likely to get in trouble with the law.
But there is still hope for these young people. There are men in our communities and extended families who have been filling in that gap by mentoring and “fathering” those who need it most. Several students who have been involved with Diakon Youth Services shared their stories of how someone took time to be a father figure and have a life-changing effect on their lives.
Corey Carothers is the executive director of Diakon Youth Services. He is married to Kelly and they have two children (and one on the way!). Corey also was a chef challenger in this week’s Dining with Diakon – Central Pennsylvania. Last year, he and youth services colleague Anthony Stukes won the 2013 Chef Challenge by raising over $12,000! Corey is committed to the mission at Diakon and goes above and beyond the call of duty to assist youths on a regular basis. Kelly is right beside him as a huge support. We asked them to share some thoughts with us ….