Giving 2015

Giving 2015

Day of Image 1On December 1, we celebrate Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving back. Giving Tuesday is a day where everyone can experience what our girls learn – the joy that comes from making a difference and the unimaginable strength that comes from helping others. We invite you to join the celebration, to experience the power of giving, by making a donation to our council. By doing so, you will help ensure more girls have the opportunity to participate in this transformative program. Your gift will impact the life of a girl, who, in turn, will make an impact on the world.

With this campaign we are seeking to support two program sites for an entire program semester – More than 25 girls in our community.

Give Today.



sparkleNo one has the right to define who you are. No one should be treated unfair. Everyone should have opportunities to be who they want to be without being discriminated.

Treat others the way you want to be treated. You never know what someone could be going through that day.

Always be kind and positive to one another. The only way to sparkle is to stop bullying and it all starts with you.

When Life Imitates Racing with Daughter

When Life Imitates Racing with Daughter

When Life Imitates Racing:

the parenting lessons I learned from running with my daughter!

by Valerie Riley, GOTR Mom and Coach

I recently served as my daughter’s “running buddy” during her first Girls on the Run 5K race. I have been a runner for years, but we had never had a chance to run together until this day. It was a warm Friday evening with a festive atmosphere full of girl power. We were totally energized as we lined up next to each other at the starting line, flanked by a few hundred others. When the bull horn blew, we took off together and stayed astride for the first 200 yards or so.

Then, she started to pull away from me and I could not keep up. I was a little lonely, but I delighted in her speed and endurance. For the next two miles, I could always see her running up ahead, about 20 or so yards in front of me. Sometimes she ran with other girls, sometimes with coaches, sometimes with another mom and sometimes alone. I struggled to keep my pace up to stay within reach of her.

At the beginning of the third mile though, I quickly came upon her. She was walking…well, maybe even standing and picking at a bush. She said she was tired and didn’t think she could finish. I knew she had it in her, and that she just needed encouragement to continue. I pointed up ahead to a shady portion of the route. “Let’s stay together, and we’ll jog until we get in the shade,” I said. “It will be cooler there.” She agreed and so off we went. When we got to the shady section, it seemed everyone had the same idea and it was crowded. “Let’s keep running,” I said. “It makes me feel fast when I pass a lot of walkers.” So we did. When we pulled out of the shade, I showed her that around the next corner, there would be a water stop. “Let’s run to the water station so we can refresh there,” I said, and she agreed. I tried to talk and joke with her during that long stretch to distract her, and I think she was both amused and annoyed by it, but she kept going. When we arrived at the water stop, I grabbed a cup and dumped it on her head and she drank. She giggled at my playfulness. I turned her around and pointed in the distance. “See those colorful flags up there? That’s the finish line,” I said. She looked at me and smiled. “Let’s go,” she said.

A photographer captured the joy and triumph on her face as she crossed the finish line. I instantly loved that photo, but it wasn’t until a few weeks went by that I understood why.


That race was a representation for me of what it is like to raise a daughter. In the infant, toddler and preschool years, she was always by my side, just like the beginning of the race. Then, she pulled away from me, running in the company of others and striking out on her own. This is what it is like during the school and tween years. Sometimes, though, she hits a rough patch and she still needs me, like she did at the beginning of the third mile. I was there to encourage her, help her set goals and get through the tough part. And when she was victorious, I stepped back and watched her shine, silently reveling in her triumph.

I am so grateful to Girls on the Run for creating the opportunity to share this moment with my daughter and to help me continue to learn and grow as a parent.

My girl crossing the finish line at 27:44 (and her proud mom behind her!)

Meet our new Program Director, Deidre Dodd!

Meet our new Program Director, Deidre Dodd!

Meet our new Program Director, Deidre Dodd!

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Girls on the Run of Alachua County would like to extend a happy welcome to our new Program Director, Deidre Dodd! Deidre has been working with the Alachua County Girls on the Run Program since 2011.  We are so pleased to welcome her to her new position & can’t wait to see the wonderful things she helps GOTR of Alachua County accomplish. I had the pleasure of interviewing Deidre and learned so many inspiring things about her.  Below are the questions and answers from my interview with her:

Question 1: How did you start out working with Girls on the Run? What lead you to volunteer?
  • When I began with GOTR in 2011, my two daughters were ages 9 and 4. My girls are very much outdoor, fun loving girls.  It was becoming increasingly important to me to ensure that they would continue to have the self-confidence in themselves through their maturing years, and Girls on the run was the perfect answer for my girls! The program at that time was being led at an elementary school where I worked, and I saw first hand the impact the Girls on the Run program was having on these students.
Question 2: What do you wish to accomplish as the new program director?
  • My wish as the new program director is to help Girls on the Run of Alachua County grow through organizational exposure as well as site locations, so that all parents are knowledgeable of the program. As well as giving these parents the opportunity to enroll their daughter into GOTR program, where ideas and strategies will change the way their girls think about not only themselves but friends and the community!
Question 3: What has been your greatest success or memory since you started working with GOTR?
  • An important part of my growing with GOTR was when we piloted the Girls on Track program in Fall 2013. This was the first time Girls of Alachua County participated in the second tier of the Girls on the Run organization, Girls on Track, offered to 6-8th grade students. As a coach for GOT, I found it ironic after preparing for each of the lessons that these messages are just as applicable to myself as much as they were to the girls. They relate to girls and women, and everyone.  Just because we, as coaches, are adult women does not mean that we don’t forget to practice these ideals in our own life.
Question 4: Has GOTR had any impact on you and/or your family? If so, how?
  • YES! Both of my girls have participated in the Girls on the Run as well as the Girls on Track program. We speak Girls on the Run lingo all of the time…We put in our positive cord, and begin to look at the positive ways to look at a situation, and we resolve the challenge in that direction. My youngest daughter loves to put her sparkly cord in, and she will tell me she is getting rid of her yucky, slimy cord. We focus on positivity, and I tell my own daughters as well as all of my GOTR girls that Happiness and Positivity are contagious…Be the Carrier!


-Rebekah Mena

Running with Company

Running with Company

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It’s been quite a while since I last wrote, and I promise my intentions were good. It’s been a little over a month since I finished my second half marathon with my awesome and inspiring friend, Kerry! To say that my race weekend was amazing would be an understatement. Leading up to the race, I was feeling so nervous, anxious, and I would get all kinds of butterflies. Flash forward to the Friday before my race, and my husband and I got some incredibly exciting news! We were expecting our first child!! In that moment, everything felt surreal. My weird stomach issues were instantly explained, and even before I told my husband, I was on the phone with my doctor to make sure that I was in the clear to run my race. I felt even more passionate about finishing my race knowing that I wanted the best future for our little one, and the world they were going to be coming in to. My doctor encouraged me to run my race, but to do so while keeping my heart rate low. So, with that information and a little running partner, my husband and I set off for Orlando to stay with our friends and celebrate this new journey we were starting.

Flash forward to race morning…for any moms out there, I’m sure that all of you can relate with not feeling the greatest during the first weeks of pregnancy. My morning, however, started with a Questbar before the race and one to eat along the way during the race. When Kerry and I arrived at the race morning, it was dark and a little chilly for Orlando. We pulled up to the building where I used to work and I could already feel the excitement building up! I felt so at home in Lake Nona when we lived there, and I still feel so comfortable in that area of Orlando. The race was packed with people getting ready, and we made our way to our spots. Kerry and I run at different paces, so we made a plan to meet at the end of the race. Just before the race, one of the guests of honor gave a special “Good Luck” announcement to all of the runners. That’s when the waterworks started that day. I started to feel the excitement, adrenaline, and sentimental moments building up. Lake Nona was my home and where I really found myself as an adult. It was where my husband and I had our first home together, and it where we would spend our weekends when we dated. Every step of the race, I felt myself explaining to our little one what cherished moments had happened at the locations I passed. The whole 13.1 miles, I was narrating our story, my story, internally to my little running buddy.

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When I got to mile 8, I realized that all of the emotions were making it a little difficult to keep my heart rate down. So, I decided to slow down and walk it out a little bit. By mile 9, I seriously thought about throwing in the towel. I was tired, hungry, nauseous, and emotional. But,   all that keptrunning through my head were the pictures I’d seen on the Girls on the Run websites and the thought that I was thinking of quitting not because I couldn’t do it, but because I was tired. That moment when I thought of GOTR, is what got me through my last 4.1 miles of the race. I couldn’t wait to get home and share what a wonderful and life-changing experience my race weekend had been. I am incredibly grateful for Girls on the Run and especially for Emely who has made being a SoleMate so incredibly easy and rewarding! I’ve decided to take it easy on the running and races during my pregnancy, but I plan to come back after our little one is born and continue being a SoleMate! Thank you so much for all of the support and encouragement along the way! I hope everyone has a blessed Holiday Season!

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Stephenie & My Little Running Buddy



  1. Crossing the finish line and running straight into my husband’s arms
  2. The gorgeous sunrise overlooking one of my favorite sections of Lake Nona
  3. The thought of everyone with Girls on the Run cheering for me to finish
  4. Sharing this moment with my little running buddy. It was the perfect way to start my pregnancy off on the right foot!

Running Our Lives

Running Our Lives (pdf)

Remember to be Thankful this Holiday Season!

Remember to be Thankful this Holiday Season!

With Thanksgiving being right around the corner, I thought it would be very fitting to highlight the importance of gratitude this holiday season! It’s super important to teach kids at a young age the importance of being grateful for what they have because there could always be someone out there who isn’t as fortunate. GOTR of Alachua County is super thankful for the amazing girls that we see come through our programs. Watching these grow together, laugh together, and discover themselves together is a very rewarding experience. Although I personally do not have face to face interactions with the wonderful volunteers of GOTRAC and the girls that are enrolled in our programs, getting to write this blogs featuring what the girls are doing and see the pictures, makes me so thankful for this internship! The girls in our program are super lucky to have each other and their coaches that work with them consistently because they’re a part of the GOTR family and having a supportive family is one of the many wonderful things to be grateful for. Pictured below are the girls from Archer Elementary after they ran their practice 5k last week!


National Bullying Prevention Month

National Bullying Prevention Month

blog“People that feel alone or feel they are outcasts, kids that feel bullied or lost, remember that you have a voice and that you should use that voice to survive and persevere” – Christina Alguilera

October is National Bullying Prevention Month so it only seemed fitting for my first blog as the new GOTRAC intern to be talking about the amazing things we are doing to prevent bullying ! It’s very important that we educate today’s youth about what bullying is because sometimes kids don’t even realize that they are bullying one another. There are many amazing campaigns out there which are taking the initiative to educate young girls about the dangers of bullying. Many begin by explaining that there are three types of bullying: physical, emotional, and verbal. They also include tips that help girls identify when bullying is happening and they provide ideas/suggestions for what to do when girls witness bullying.

One amazing campaign that is currently going on is Secret’s Mean Stinks campaign. They’ve created a huge campaign to teach girls about the issue of bullying. They’ve also started an activity that is currently sweeping the nation. The idea is to have people make a pinky promise to take a stand against bullying. Young girls are encouraged to make a pinky promise to take a stand against bullying and then to paint their pinky nails blue to seal the deal. Locally, our girls are participating in the pinky promise against bullying. Attached is a picture of the girls from Archer Elementary making their pinky promise to take a stand against bullying!

Another amazing thing that has come out of Secret’s Mean Stinks concept is their new Chain of Nice Campaign. Secret is challenging their fans and supporters to create a 15 second long Instagram video in which they tag a friend (or few) and share something nice about them and inspiring them to spread the nice by doing the same thing on their own Instagram account. I will be participating in the Chain of Nice campaign so be on the look out for the link to my video! 🙂

– Rebekah M. <3

The Importance of Friendships

The Importance of Friendships

SoleMateStephanie“Growing apart doesn’t change the fact that for a long time we grew side by side; our roots will always be tangled. I’m glad for that.”

― Ally Condie, Matched

I started this post thinking that I was going to write all about my training and how excited I am about my race. While I’ll cover those topics, I wanted to write a little bit about what inspires me sometimes on the days when I’m nervous about running a half marathon, or I just really want to sleep in that extra hour instead of going to the gym for a workout. What truly inspires me are the women that I have come to love and admire in my life and that have become friends, but more importantly they have become like a second family.

Lately, I have been so busy with my training, work, volunteering, and school that I haven’t always been extremely motivated to stick with everything. One of the best motivators has been having a group of women in my life who are strong, intelligent, confident, and beautiful inside and out. They are mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends. All of them have been with me as I’ve grown into who I am. Some of my best memories are with these women! I know that no matter what, we can be far away and busy with our own lives, but our friendship will always be there..solematesteph

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how important it is that I surround myself with positive thinking women. All of the women I’ve mentioned build one another up. It’s been mentioned so many times how women can tear one another down. It is so important to find true friends who won’t do this. Instead, they will help you grow into a better version of yourself.

When I started training for my half marathon, I wasn’t running the race with anyone. I had registered for the race without talking to anyone about it. I was really excited when one of my best friends decided to run the race with me! It’s been a great motivator to stick with my training schedule! Even more than finishing the race, I am beyond excited that I get to spend the weekend with my friend and her beautiful family!

What I’ve learned, is that more than anything, I hope and pray that every woman has a friend, or group of friends, that build her up. Girls on the Run, in my mind, is creating a generation of women that will do this. They’ll believe in themselves and one another. They’ll motivate each other to follow their dreams and live healthy and happy lives. That’s what all of these women have done for me, and I am grateful for every memory I have or will have with them.

When I wrote this there were only 10 days left until the Lake Nona Half Marathon, and I was already beginning to experience the pre-race jitters. I had one more long run, and then it was time to relax, stretch, and do a couple of short and easy runs before the race.  Now, the race is right around the corner, just two days away!  This Sunday, October 26, 2014 I will run 13.1 miles through Orlando, Florida to complete my 2nd half marathon.  I am grateful to everyone who has supported me in training for this race, and I can’t wait to get to Orlando for a fun and intense weekend! Happy Fall!!

<3 Stephenie


To support Stephenie please visit her SoleMates fundraising page:


SoleMates is the charity running leg of Girls on the Run of Alachua County (GOTRAC).  SoleMates provides adults an opportunity to raise money for GOTRAC while training for the athletic event of their choice. SoleMates set personal goals such as running in a marathon, half marathon,  or 10k event to raise money for GOTRAC. SoleMates raises critically needed funds that helps our council to serve more girls in our community.

For more information or to become a SoleMate for GOTRAC please visit our SoleMates website


Dad & Daughter Running Duo

Dad & Daughter Running Duo

IMG_1676Nooriel Nolan and her father Steve Nolan have become the first father-daughter SoleMates team!
Below they describe in their own words why they are passionate about running for Girls on the Run.

Steve (age 63):

I have a lifetime (50 years) love of running– it is my weight control , stress control, mood elevator , and morning meditation — at some point along the way my oldest daughter decided to follow in my footsteps and started running– she seemed to have a natural affinity for it at an early age– and I immediately saw how it gave her joy, a sense of accomplishment and a sense of bonding with her dad– we have shared that bond ever since — and we both enjoy passing that sense of joy and well-being to others! It is a healthy lifestyle that lends itself to welcoming others, encouraging others and bonding with others that becomes a basic social bond and subtle pleasure in a world of constant distractions and frequent stress. Girls on the Run is symbolic of the individual trying to outrun the limitations that society places upon us, whether it be gender, race, culture or religious affiliation — we can always outrun the limitations of “past thinking.”

Nooriel (age 33):

Running has always been an important part of my life.  As a young child, I used to ride my bike alongside my Dad as he went for his Saturday runs.  At the age of 8, I ran my first 5K race. By age 13 I was hooked, and running became part of my weekly routine. Encouraged by my parents, I would jog a couple times per week.  My father always seemed so excited by my progress, and by this mutual passion.  He made it a ritual to run his first mile or two with me before going off on his own, faster pace.   That father-daughter running bond lasted over the years, and we became running buddies.  Even as I transitioned into college, I cherished the few times per year we would run together.  This is one of the many ways my father showed me how important I was to him, how much he believed in me, and that I could accomplish anything.  It seemed logical that we would bond together to become SoleMates to help other girls realize this too.


Please sponsor us to run our first run as SoleMates, this December: