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The Atlanta BeltLine & Girls on the Run: Creating a Healthier Future for Westside Students

By Rob Brawner, Executive Director, Atlanta BeltLine Partnership

Atlanta is making unprecedented investments in our city’s transportation infrastructure, and the Atlanta BeltLine is one of many initiatives connecting residents with each other – and with healthier lifestyles.  When the Westside Trail opened last year, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership (ABP) – with funding from Kaiser Permanente of Georgia – created the Westside Trail Community Health Grant Program to improve health outcomes in communities along the trail. This grant program is one of many programs the Partnership offers to activate Atlanta BeltLine parks and trails – taking a “build it and help them come” approach.

Recent data from The State of Obesity shows 32.2% of 10 to 17 year-olds in Georgia are overweight or obese, ranking 18th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia (higher rankings reflect higher rates of obesity).  With more than twenty K-12 schools located within a half mile of the Atlanta BeltLine corridor, our youth have an opportunity to engage in physical activity that will not only combat the obesity epidemic but also improve their academic performance.

The Atlanta BeltLine provides a safe space for kids to walk, bike, run, and skate, and the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership is proud to support Girls on the Run Atlanta (GOTR) as one of our inaugural Westside Trail grant recipients so that more students can discover and use the Atlanta BeltLine, leading to healthier communities and brighter futures.

GOTR is a fun afterschool program that inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident. Girls on the Run International was established in 1996 in Charlotte, NC and the Atlanta council was founded in 2000 with three teams and thirty girls. Today, there are more than 3,000 participants a year across four metro Atlanta counties and the organization has served 20,000 metro area girls in the last 16 years.

Program participants meet twice each week for ninety minutes to prepare to run a 5K while also learning life skills and strategies: how to stand up for themselves and others, manage emotions, find and offer help, choose healthy foods, make intentional decisions, set goals, resolve conflict, care for themselves, choose healthy relationships, set boundaries and overcome obstacles. At the end of the season, participants complete a celebratory 5K with hundreds of other girls from across metro Atlanta.

This spring, GOTR is organizing 125 teams throughout Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett Counties. The early lottery registration period has passed but registration continues through February 14th for teams that are not full. Through a partnership with GOTR and Atlanta Public Schools, ABP and KPGA will provide financial support to three teams running on the Westside Trail this spring. Girls at Brown Middle School, M. Agnes Jones Elementary School and KIPP STRIVE Primary School will participate at no cost and also receive free running shoes and healthy snacks at each lesson.

To learn more and register your girl for Girls on the Run, please visit www.girlsontherunatlanta.org.

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