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The Mattoon Area Family YMCA and Neal Center YMCA are offering two programs this fall that are designed to get kids moving while building their confidence.

Girls on the Run is a nation-wide effort to inspire girls to recognize their inner strength and celebrate what makes them one of a kind. “Girls face social pressures and conflicting messages about how they should act and who they should be,” said Sarah Dowell, Council Director, Girls on the Run of East Central Illinois. “Studies show that, by adolescence, girls’ confidence drops about twice as much as boys’. Friendships become more complicated and challenging, girls’ perception of their academic ability declines, the likelihood of anxiety and depression increases, and participation in physical activity plummets. This can obviously have a devastating impact on our girls.”

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A recent study led by Dr. Maureen Weiss, an expert in Positive Youth Development, found that Girls on the Run’s curriculum and highly trained coaches positively impact girls’ lives by helping them increase their self-confidence, develop healthy relationships, and feel good about themselves. In fact, 85% of participants polled said that the program helped them improve their confidence, competence, caring, character, or connection to others. Girls who were least active at the start of the program increased in physical activity by more than 40%.

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During Girls on the Run, trained coaches lead small teams through a research-based curricula which includes dynamic discussions, activities, and running games. Groups will meet at several schools in the area, as well as the Mattoon Area Family YMCA. Over the course of the program, girls in 3rd through 5th grade develop essential skills to help them navigate their world and establish a lifetime appreciation for health and fitness. The program culminates with girls completing a service project and participating in a non-competitive celebratory 5k on November 9, 2019.

The YMCA also offers a similar program for boys in 3rd through 5th grade in both Coles and Cumberland counties at both the Mattoon Area Family YMCA and Cumberland Elementary School. STRIDE is a fun running program during which boys have the opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions about various life topics in a safe, encouraging environment that helps expand their character while building their running endurance to complete a 5k at the end of the program.

Over the course of the program, trained volunteer coaches will meet with the boys twice a week, for 75 minutes. They will weave important topics and discussion into fun games and running activities. All shapes, sizes, and abilities are celebrated and welcome in both programs, and volunteer coaches are needed.

Registration for both programs is open from through Aug. 26, 2019, but is on a first come, first served basis. The programs will begin the week of September 3, 2019 and will run through the week of November 11, 2019, but meeting times and days will vary by location. The fee for each program is $100, however, there are need-based scholarships available. The registration fee includes 20 lessons taught by trained coaches, snacks at each practice, a program shirt and water bottle, and participation in the end of season 5k, which includes a finisher medal. For more information, including a complete list of program sites, go to www.mattoonymca.org or www.nealcenterymca.org. Parents and guardians may also contact Sarah Dowell at sdowell@mattoonymca.org or 217-234-9494.

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