The first time Callie Jane Vickers ran a 5K, she was eight years old and a little nervous. By the time she crossed the finish line, she was hooked.
Girls on the Run, the organization that prepared her for that race eight years ago, honored Vickers for her past participation in the after-school program last month.
Girls on the Run teaches 8- to 13-year-old girls about healthy habits and self-confidence while they train for a 5K.
The national organization awarded Vickers, now 16, the Wonder Girl Award after she wrote an essay about her experience. She was one of three winners, chosen among hundreds of thousands of GOTR alumnae.
“It was awesome. I was so happy,” Vickers said. “It was a nice confidence booster to think people like me for who I am.”
She won an all-expenses-paid trip to New Orleans in January, where she sat on a panel during a Girls on the Run conference.
Vickers first signed up for Girls on the Run in third grade. She enjoyed it so much that she signed up again in fourth and fifth grade, too.
Vickers said the program taught her the importance of being active and making healthy choices, as well as teamwork and positive thinking. It boosted her self-esteem, too, she said, because volunteers who coach the girls shattered stereotypes of female beauty.
“You need to step out of the ‘girl box’ and be who you are, and that’s actually going to be better,” she said.
Vickers volunteered as a junior coach in sixth grade and continued to help with the 5K in middle school.
Now a junior at Millard North High School, she’s often too busy to run but said when she finds the time, “it’s a wonderful treat.”
Amy Carr, head of the Nebraska chapter of GOTR, said Vickers is the perfect Wonder Girl.
“I just think it’s a huge honor and fun that somebody who does this after-school program can be so affected by it later,” she said. “For Callie Jane, she’s the iconic Girl on the Run. Positive. Eager to take on a challenge. She has never said no to us. She’s just one of those exuberant teenagers.”
The next session of Girls on the Run starts the week of March 4. The girls meet twice weekly for 10 to 12 weeks. Registration is open now and closes March 1.
More than 700 girls in Nebraska are already signed up to train for a 5K, like Vickers did.
“It’s not an easy goal, but it’s a good goal,” Carr said, “and when you’re finished you feel like a million bucks.”
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