Volunteer Spotlight

Coach Sher-Bear with MHLT girls

We sat down with Volunteer Coach Sher-Bear, and asked her some questions about her experiences working with GOTR of the Northwoods. She had some pretty impactful things to say! Read on to find out just what Coach Sher-Bear had to say…

How did you first hear about GOTR?

I was approached by Lynn, the program director, I was like, “Yeah! I can do it!” I was so excited. Little did I know that being a martial artist and a martial arts instructor had really prepared me for being a coach. For example, if you would ask a question of one of the kids, you always let the child answer and you always say, “Yes! And…” There’s never any negative connotation of “You’re wrong,” or anything like that. It’s always, “I love your answer, and in addition to that…” It’s been one of my greatest lessons in teaching kids; everyone has something pertinent and valid to say. I learned more about myself probably, going through that program.

Why would you recommend someone become involved as a volunteer with GOTR?

I think it’s important to give back. To share experiences. One of the things I like the most about Girls on the Run is that it doesn’t just talk about the issues; it gives you tools. And now I’m using those tools. So anybody that can get involved in Girls on the Run is going to grow, they’re going to evolve; it’s just an amazing experience. You can start using those tools at 45, and sharing them with your friends.

What impact has this program had on you as a coach?

A connectedness with our youth. I love our youth. They are our world. If we can teach these girls how to feel their inner beauty and be okay with themselves, speak their truth, than we’re going to bring peace.  We’re going to bring peace to our schools and to our world. It’s just a huge opportunity to help the girls. I watched my own daughter transform through Girls on Track. She completely switched her friends, saw the bullying going on and was able to use the tools from Girls on the Run, and invite the bully-er to come and sit at the table, and just always give love and compassion.  

What’s the most rewarding thing you have taken from this experience?

Lynn Laurence. Well that is one of the wonderful things. You know, I’ve created this wonderful friendship with this beautiful woman. That’s been quite rewarding. And seeing the kids too. Even after a year of having them in class and they will still come up to you and give you a hug. They’ll say, “Coach Sher-Bear!!” You have this connection with the girls that will always be there. There’s always that connection that you make with these kids. Some of them would come up to me and pull me aside and say, “Coach Sher-Bear, can I talk to you about something?” This is where all of my training is coming in handy. Sometimes we’re the ones- a teacher or a coach can change a child’s life. That’s pretty impactful.

Do you have any hopes for GOTR in the future?

Growth. Growth and awareness. I don’t know if there’s some way that we could get boys involved.  And as for the awareness, when I say, “Oh, I coach Girls on the Run,” most people think that’s a track team. One of my girls said, “Coach Sher-Bear, they need to change it to Girls on the Move.” Because Girls on the Run automatically puts you into this, you’re training for a 5K. And they know nothing else about the program until I start telling them about everything.

What are some favorite memories or stories from GOTR?

In GOTR, last spring, we were sitting in a circle. I think the lesson was about going to the next person and saying something nice about them. And this wonderful girl is sitting next to me, and she looks up at me and she says, “Coach Sher-Bear, you are so unique. I love your birthmark.” And I said, “Thank you.” And of course the opportunity presents itself and so I said, “You know, I’m curious girls, if you are open to just being honest, what did you think? What did you feel when you first saw me and saw that birthmark?” Some of the girls were real animated, “Ooh I thought oh my gosh she’s been burned!” And then I said, “Now what do you notice?” “We don’t even see your birthmark.” And I said, “So, this is great! You guys are so smart. Next time you see somebody that maybe has something with their face or a birthmark, maybe they’re missing an arm or they’re in a wheelchair, something different than what you’re used to. Now you know that if you get to know them, you’re going to find someone really special, you know, their humanness underneath that challenge that they might have.” That was just a really cool moment, for them all to go, “We don’t even see it now!”  It was just a great opportunity to just bring some awareness to all of girls- that everybody is the same deep down inside. Inner beauty. That was probably one of the most impactful memories.


Heather volunteering as a Junior Coach

Junior Coach Heather S. has both participated in and volunteered with GOTR as a junior coach. Talking with Heather shows just how much GOTR has a positive effect, both as a participant and a volunteer! Keep reading to see exactly what Heather has to say about her experiences…

How did you first hear about Girls on the Run?

My parents heard about it, or I heard about it at school. I did it in 3rd and 4th grade. I definitely did it twice because I know I got two different colored shirts! I had the blue one and I think I had the purple one. Because there wasn’t a program at AVW, I was going to MHLT. I had some friends in it, so we were all like, “we’ll do it!” And there were three of us that went from AVW every Tuesday and Thursday. Jennifer B. and Shelby H.

Why would you recommend getting involved as either a participant or a volunteer?

For the girls, it’s a really good self-esteem booster, and you learn a lot about yourself and about others, and you really form a bond with your friends. And it’s just nice to see what you can accomplish just by working towards a goal; so you run the 5K and you’re like, “Look what I can do!”

As for being a volunteer, I like helping the girls see their potential and getting them to finish that 5K, because they’re all so happy after that. Some girls don’t think that they can do it, or that they can’t do it without stopping, but all of the girls, at least at MHLT, were very supportive of each other, they had a really strong team. You just keep them going.

What impact have you seen on yourself from being involved with GOTR?

I’ve had more self-confidence, seeing that the girls have more self-confidence! I was like, okay I can do this! They really give you that. I also feel more mature, because I’m a role model, so then I have to act respectful to the coaches and respectful to the girls so they know that everything works that way.  It just shows you how you should act.

What is the role of the Junior Coach? What is your job? 

Kind of to be the big sister. So if they don’t want to talk to the coaches than they come and talk to you, and you’re their own personal cheerleader. If the coaches are talking and the girls are talking, I’ll go and sit right in-between them.

What impact have you seen on participants through this program?

One girl at MHLT, she ended up really stretching out and helping the others because she was a really strong runner. She branched out and was really supportive of her teammates. Some girls at AVW my first year accomplished so much during their time, and they flourished at the end of the season. It was really cool.

What was the most rewarding thing about being involved in GOTR?

Seeing how the girls respond to what you’re doing. When you get there they’re all so excited to see you. It’s just so rewarding to know you’re making a difference in their lives.  There was this girl and she had a really bad home life, so she would tell you all about it, so you’re trying to help her, so when she has a good day, you feel really good.  It’s just going there and having them so happy that you’re there. And then if you miss a day the next time they’re like, “Where were you? Why weren’t you here?” They’re just freaking out and it’s really cute.  I really like kids and its fun having extra time with them.

What are your hopes for GOTR in the future?

To have it grow, and get as many girls in it as possible. Every girl should have that opportunity, it’s just so much fun.

Do you have any favorite memories or stories from GOTR events? 

One time at MHLT we were playing on the equipment, just running everywhere and that was a lot of fun. Doing stretching, when everyone was just going crazy. We also went and laid in the woods at MHLT, and did some sort of meditation and visualization and it was a lot of fun. The girls like running in the halls too. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, as long as you’re running in the halls, you’re like, “Ooh this is fun!” During school you’re not allowed to run in the halls, so this is really fun for them.

Karen S. (on right) at Summit 2011

Board Member and Volunteer Extraordinaire Karen S. agreed to answer some questions about her many experiences working with Girls on the Run of the Northwoods. Take a look to see how adults can get involved- even when they don’t have a child in the program!

How did you first hear about and interact with Girls on the Run? How did you get involved?

My employer puts out a monthly newsletter and Girls on the Run had an article looking for volunteers. I called Lynn and learned more about the program and volunteered to coach in the Fall 2007 at AVW. Since then, I have worked more behind the scenes and been the Treasurer, gone to the yearly GOTR Summit, Co-Race Directed 2012 Final 5k Celebration and participated in bringing LUNAFEST to Arbor Vitae as our first big Fundraising event.

Why would you recommend getting involved as a volunteer or participant?

  Volunteering is important as it goes a long way in creating a healthy community. Knowing you did something good for someone or some cause is an emotionally uplifting experience. It is an experience that can’t be bought with any amount of money.  Helping young girls in our community to become self-confident, healthy and strong is priceless.

What impact have you seen on yourself/ a participant since getting involved? When I started coaching this program, I thought, “I wish there would have been a program like this when I was their age”. It’s noncompetitive. It doesn’t matter if you are fast or slow. You get to play fun running games and talk about things that are important to girls. The girls get to just be girls! The impact of that is refreshing.

What is the most rewarding thing that you have experienced or seen the girls experience?

It is rewarding to see the young girls start off the season and gain self-confidence as it progresses and to have all four feeder schools come together for one big celebration at the end.

What are your hopes for GOTR in the future?

It’s all about the girls. I continue to support the amazing girls that go through this program and hope that we can reach many more. I hope that we become overwhelmed with volunteers to become bigger and better each year.

Do you have any favorite memories or stories from GOTR events? At one of the Final 5k Celebrations, a girl had just come from the “Happy Hair Station” and she stated, “I don’t ever want to wash my hair again, I love this do!” I smiled and thought, the Happy Hair Station really does make one Happy! You really have to see it to experience the emotion! Come on by June 1, 2013!